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Extinction and Survival : Paradigms from the “Middle East”


Module Leader

Professor Cathia Jenainati
Option - Second and Final year
Terms 1 and 2
6 lecture hours
40 seminars hours
5 hours of screenings
2 hours of tutorials

Not available to students outside GSD

This module will not be offered in 2018-19

Principal Aims

The module is structured in such a way as to facilitate the examination of a paradigm that has characterised the experience of peoples living in the area commonly designated as “Middle-East”.

The tension between Extinction & Survival manifests itself historically with the debate around nomadism and sedentary living in the writing of Ibn Khaldun (14 A.D.) and continues in the 20th century with the Pan-Arabist movement led by Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1952, and culminates in the 2011 revolutionary movements commonly known as the “Arab Uprisings”.

The module is premised on the idea that what belies these existentialist debates is a concern around the survival of tribes and nations that are unified by language and, to some extent, religion but that are otherwise diverse and distrusting of each other.

The module engages with social, political, economic and environmental debates and allows you to delve into philosophical and literary narratives around individual and national identities.

Principal Learning Outcomes

Upon completing this module, you will be able to demonstrate:

  • An ability to engage critically with the debates that surround the controversial use of the terms “Middle East”, “Arab”, “Islamism”, “Political Islam”, “Arab Spring” and provide an evidence-based explanation of their origins and their use both in common parlance and academic scholarship;
  • An advanced knowledge of the geographic changes that have affected the region, and of the political motivations that have informed the cartography of the “Middle East”;
  • A detailed and evidence-based understanding of the economic, environmental and social factors that inform the inhabitants’ relationship to space and their sense of place;
  • Your ability to reflect critically on the paradigms of Extinction & Survival and analyse the ways in which these have shaped the region’s political and social configuration;
  • Your ability to conduct in-depth textual analysis of primary sources, including speeches, essays, films, documentaries and works of fiction;
  • An advanced capability to undertake research and produce original arguments focussed on a problem relating to the paradigms of Extinction & Survival;


Term 1
  1. Lecture : Introduction to “Paradigms of Extinction & Survival” (until 1945); No Seminar
  2. Seminar : Archaeological records of extinction and survival—and what they tell us about the region and its inhabitants; Social and Economic structures of Bedouin societies; political factors that shaped / threatened the Bedouin way of life
  3. Seminar : Focussed study of "Bedouin tribal kingdoms" (and group presentations)
  4. Seminar : Ibn Khaldun, Muqqadimah; Social and Economic structures that shape the life of “Arabs” in sedentary societies
  5. Lecture : Paradigms of Extinction and Survival during the Ottoman period: Political structures; Economic underpinnings of trade; Social constructions of the Ottoman Empire; Seminar : threats of extinction and opportunities for survival—religious entities in the “Near East” (until 1918); Focussed study of the "Silk Trade"; Reading: Hanna Mina's Fragments of Memory
  6. Seminar : Political and Social impacts of the Environment: Topophilia, Natural Resources, Human Resources. Focussed Study on "The Desert"; Reading: Abdel-Rahman Munif's Endings
  7. Seminar : WWI and its aftermath – towards the creation of a “Middle East”; the socio-political reconfigurations of the “Middle East”; “Extinction and Survival” in the Social and Artistic responses to WWI;
  8. Seminar: Colonialism--theory and discourse
  9. Seminar: Orientalism--theory and discourse
  10. Lecture : Critical Summary of the “Paradigms of Extinction & Survival”; Seminar : In-Class test
Term 2
  1. Lecture : Introduction to “Paradigms of Extinction & Survival”, Manifestations at National and Regional levels (1945-2016); Seminar : Governing limited natural resources: Water
  2. Seminar : "Wild Arabia: Sand Wind and Stars "--Documentary and workshop activity
  3. Seminar : Water Security and Regional Conflict
  4. Seminar : Group presentations
  5. Lecture : The Discovery of Oil / Oil-based vs. Knowledge-based economies Seminar : Focussed Study on Oil in the Middle-East
  6. Seminar : Extinction & Survival in times of conflict-- Al Naqba, the occupation of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel.
  7. Seminar : Extinction & Survival in times of conflict -- The Lebanese Civil War; Reading: Hanan Al-Shaykh's The Story of Zahra; Film: The Square
  8. Seminar : The Arab Uprising; Focussed study on "Revolution"
  9. Seminar : Representations of the Arab Uprising in the Media
  10. Conclusion and Critical Reflections


Group Presentation 2 x 15-minutes (15%)
Coursework 10 x 500-word Book of Commonplace entries (25%)
  1 x 4,000 word research paper or individual project (40%)
Exam Timing

1 x 90-minute class test (20%)