Seminar: State and “Stateness” in the Modern Middle East

State and “Stateness” in the Modern Middle East

Prof. Asher Susser


Fall 2018

Office Hours: Wednesdays 15:00-16:00


Course Description

The seminar will begin with a discussion of the concept of “Stateness.” We will then move on to the era of reform in the Middle East of the 19th century when Western ideas of nationalism and the nation state penetrated the local discourse. It will also discuss the creation of the new states in the region in the wake of World War I and the decisive influence of the Western powers, Britain and France, in the delineation of the borders of these new states. The course will then discuss a variety of cases of states in which different types of sub-national and supra-national identities have affected the capacity of these states to evolve into stable entities over the long term. The course will conclude with a discussion of the “Arab Spring” as a consequence of the profound socio-economic crisis that has overtaken many Arab states and the proliferation of non-state actors like ISIS who have risen to challenge the existing state order.



Participation 20%

Midterm Exam 15%

Final Exam 15%

Term Paper 50% (Referats, by 13.2.2019; Seminars, by 5.5.19)

Required length of final seminar papers: 6,000-7,000 words

Required length of  final referat papers: 3,000-3,500 words



Attendance is mandatory. Students are permitted a maximum of three unexcused absences without penalty. Any additional absences will affect the final grade and may result in failure of the course.


Academic conduct

Plagiarism is taken extremely seriously. Any instance of academic misconduct which includes: submitting someone else’s work as your own; failure to accurately cite sources; taking words from another source without using quotation marks; submission of work for which you have previously received credit; working in a group for individual assignments; using unauthorized materials in an exam and sharing your work with other students, will result in failure of the assignment and will likely lead to further disciplinary measures.


General Background

Brandon Friedman and Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, Inglorious Revolutions: State Cohesion in the Middle East after the Arab Spring (Moshe Dayan Center, Tel Aviv University, 2014).

Roger Owen, State, Power and Politics in the Making of the Modern Middle East (London: Routledge, 1992).

P.J. Vatikiotis, Islam and the State (London: Routledge, 1987).

Sami Zubaida, Islam, the People and the State (London: I.B. Tauris, 2009).


Week One: The Conceptual Framework

Bernard Lewis, “The Map of the Middle East; A Guide for the Perplexed,” The American Scholar, Vol. 58, No. 1 (Winter 1988-89), pp. 19-35.

Bruce Maddy-Weitzman and Asher Susser, “Introduction: State Cohesion in the Middle East: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives,” in Brandon Friedman and Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, Inglorious Revolutions: State Cohesion in the Middle East after the Arab Spring (Moshe Dayan Center, Tel Aviv University, 2014), pp. 13-36.

P.J. Vatikiotis, Islam and the State (London: Routledge, 1987), pp. 35-57.


Week Two: Middle Eastern Reform and New Ideas

Albert Hourani, A History of the Arab Peoples (New York: Warner Books, 1992), pp. 265-278; 299-314.


Week Three: Arab Nationalism and the Middle East State System

James Gelvin, The Modern Middle East; A History (Oxford University Press, 2011), pp. 180-216.

Martin Kramer, “Arab Nationalism: Mistaken Identity,” Daedalus, Vol. 122, No. 3 (Summer 1993), pp. 171-206.


Week Four: The Resilience of Tradition and Religious Revival

Yvonne Haddad, “Sayyid Qutb: Ideologue of Islamic Revival,” in John Esposito (ed.), Voices of Resurgent Islam (New York: OUP, 1983), 67-98.

P.J. Vatikiotis, The Modern History of Egypt (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1969), pp. 292-312.


Week Five: The Egyptian Nation State and its Challengers

Ami Ayalon, “Egypt’s Coptic Pandora’s Box” in Ofra Bengio and Gabriel Ben-Dor (eds.), Minorities and the State in the Arab World (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1999), pp. 53-71.z

Ami Ayalon, Egypt’s Quest for Cultural Orientation (Dayan Center, Data and Analysis, June 1999).


Weeks Six and Seven: Sectarianism in the Levant: Syria and Lebanon

Robert Rabil, Religion, National Identity and Confessional Politics in Lebanon (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), pp. 41-58.


Meir Zamir, “From Hegemony to Marginalism: The Maronites of Lebanon,” in Bengio and Ben-Dor, ibid, pp. 111-128.

Eyal Zisser, “The ‘Alawis, Lords of Syria: From Ethnic Minority to Ruling Sect,” in Bengio and Ben-Dor, ibid, pp. 129-145.


Mid-Term Exam (Wednesday, 5 December 2018)


Week Eight: The Make-up and Break-up of Iraq

Ofra Bengio, Nation Building in Multiethnic Societies: The Case of Iraq,” in Bengio and Ben-Dor, ibid, pp. 149-169.

Elie Kedourie, “The Kingdom of Iraq: A Retrospect,” The Chatham House Version and Other Middle Eastern Studies (University Press of New England, 1984), pp. 236-85.


Weeks Nine and Ten: Statehood and Stateness in Jordan and Palestine

Yoav Alon, The Making of Jordan; Tribes, Colonialism and the Modern State (London: I.B.Tauris, 2007), pp. 110-147.

Beshara Doumani, “Palestine Versus the Palestinians? The Iron Laws and Ironies of a People Denied,” Journal of Palestine Studies Vol. 36, no. 4 (Summer 2007), pp. 49-64.


Weeks Eleven and Twelve: The Non-Arab States of Turkey and Iran

Ali Carkoglu and Ersin Kalaycioglu, The Rising Tide of Conservatism in Turkey (New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2009), pp. 97-120, 141-149.

Nikki Keddie, Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), pp. 214-239.


Week Thirteen: From the Arab Spring to ISIS

Elisheva Machlis, “The Arab State between Sectarianism, Nationalism, and Islamism,” in Friedman and Weitzman, ibid, pp. 39-55.

Asher Susser, “Tradition and Modernity in the ‘Arab Spring,’” Strategic Assessment, Vol.15; No.1 (April 2012), pp. 29-41.

Asher Susser, “The ‘Arab Spring’: Competing Analytical Paradigms,” Bustan: The Middle East Book Review, Vol.3, No.2, (2012), pp. 109-130.


Final Exam (Sunday, 13 January 2019)

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