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UOSM2024 The Arab World in and Beyond the Headlines

Module Overview

Since early 2011 and the beginning of what has come to be known as ‘the Arab Spring’, the Arab world has rarely been out of the headlines. This vast and diverse region, stretching from Morocco to Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula, encompasses a number of countries and sub-regions. It is an important global player, though one that is subject to frequent misunderstanding and stereotyping. This module will introduce students to key themes of relevance to contemporary life in the Arab world in order to go beyond the headlines.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

Introduce the peoples, places, languages, religions and cultures that make up the Arab world; • Explore key themes relevant to contemporary life in the Arab world; • Develop understanding of key theoretical approaches to studying other cultures; • Develop skills in working with primary and secondary source material (all materials will be available in translation where necessary); • Develop skills in critical evaluation of media and other sources, particularly digital sources; • Develop communication skills in both oral presentations and written forms.


The module will begin with an overview of the peoples, places, languages, religions and cultures that make up the Arab world, and a reflection on sources (primary and secondary) from and about the region. It will also introduce key theoretical and methodological approaches to studying other cultures, with a focus on the Arab world (e.g. Said’s critique of Orientalism, post-colonial theory, cultural studies, ethnographic approaches). These approaches will be explored in relation to a number of themes of relevance to contemporary life in the Arab world, including: • Language, ethnicity and national identity; • Rural and urban life and livelihoods; • Migration (internal and external) and diasporas; • The influence of religion on everyday life; • Islamist movements; • Gender relations and women’s lives; • Contemporary transformations in the Arab world (the ‘Arab spring’). Central to the module will be primary source material like contemporary Arabic literature, film, biography and digital sources (e.g. websites, blogs, social media). All sources will be available in translation where necessary. These will be used along with academic work on life in the Arab world from a variety of disciplines. A key theme throughout the module will be the critical evaluation of media and other sources from and about the Arab world. The focus of the module will be on contemporary (late 20th-21st century) life, with reference to historical texts and contexts where appropriate.

Special Features

The module provides content that is not currently available at the university in a single module. The focus on contemporary developments in the Arab world will be of current interest to students and the skills developed (particularly critical analysis of media and digital sources) will be of importance to students’ lives beyond university. The module will involve key note speakers from a variety of disciplines and will engage students in active learning through presentations, group work, and online discussions. The module uses innovative methods (group media diary/blog) and group working (through the blog and the group presentation) for assessment.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

There will be weekly lectures on the proposed topics; some of these will be delivered by colleagues from different disciplines around the university (e.g. English; Modern Languages; Winchester School of Art; Economics; Sociology, Social Policy and Applied Social Sciences). (Exact contributions TBD.) Weekly seminars will involve student participation through discussion, group presentations, and periodic group work to analyse specific sources. Students will also contribute to an ongoing blog (see Group Media Diary below) that will continue the learning outside the classroom.


Assessment Strategy

Include details of the proportion and weighting of coursework as well as the number, type and duration of examination(s). You must specify which element will be taken as the final assessment. Ongoing formative assessment to provide on-module feedback: Group Media Diary (Blog) Students will be expected to contribute to a media diary in the form of a blog: each week a set of students will be responsible for locating and analysing 1-2 media articles or online sources related to the theme for that week and posting them (with brief analysis) on the blog before the seminar session. Tutor will provide feedback through comments on the postings, and students will also be expected to comment on other students’ postings. Formal assessment: Essay 1, 1000 words (30%) An essay reflecting on theoretical and methodological approaches to studying the Arab world. Questions will be provided. Group presentation and class participation (20%) Students will work in groups to prepare presentations (15 minutes) on specific themes, based on assigned readings and a small selection of media articles or online sources related to the theme. Each member of the group will be expected to make part of the presentation. The overall mark for this assessment will be shared between a group (50%) and an individual (40%) component. The remaining 10% will be based on class participation, including demonstrating appropriate engagement with and preparation of weekly material. Final essay, 2500 words (50%) Students will develop final essays from a list of questions provided, or can develop their own topic through consultation with the tutor. Students can present final essays as traditional essays or as essays in the form of a blog containing embedded links to media and other sources. Students will be assessed by the same criteria and expected word length for each option.

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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