MA International Relations (Standard)

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
The Arab Uprisings and Revolutionary State Formation

Course unit fact file
Unit code POLI70981
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This module analyzes the recent uprisings and subsequent state formation processes in the Middle East and North Africa through the prism of revolutions and state formation in the 21 Century. Empirically, we will explore the Arab Uprisings in terms of their root causes, revolutionary dynamics, regime responses, implications and the role of external intervention. Theoretically, these questions will be discussed through the lens of revolutions, counterrevolutions and state formation processes. The role of Islamist movements and the processes of regime fragmentation and survival under the pressure of mass protests will also be addressed. By focusing on the cases of Tunisia and Egypt, we will then examine the (counter-)revolutionary state formation processes and evaluate political, economic and social reforms as well as the obstacles that they encounter. Analysis of transitional justice and the geopolitical reconfiguration of the region will help explore the implications of revolutionary attempts further. All these divergent aspects of contemporary (counter-)revolutions serve to answer the key question of this module: What do the Arab Uprisings tell us about the obstacles to and possibility of contemporary revolutions?

The module explores the Arab Uprisings through the prism of wider questions of revolution and state formation processes:

  • Why are mass uprisings ubiquitous in the 21st Century, while revolutionary outcomes have remained rare?
  • Why have some authoritarian regimes faltered under the pressure of popular uprisings, while others have survived?
  • Why did some Arab uprisings turn violent and what are the consequences of different types of resistance?
  • What are the implications of NATO-led interventions?
  • What are the main structural obstacles that revolutionaries encounter in the state formation process?
  • What are the local and global implications of the Arab Uprisings?

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • comprehend theoretical approaches to revolutions.
  • engage with theories on social movements, political violence and non-violent resistance, state formation, military intervention and transitional justice.
  • understand the socio-economic and political root causes of contemporary mass uprisings.
  • differentiate between divergent trajectories of political mobilization through analysis of revolutionary dynamics and the factors that constrain or fuel them.
  • understand processes of regime fragmentation and regime survival in the context of mass uprisings.
  • critically assess the driving forces, effects and limitations of foreign interventions in revolutionary processes.
  • comprehend the obstacles encountered by revolutionary networks in the subsequent state formation processes.
  • analyse the benefits and limitations of transitional justice processes.
  • assess the geopolitical consequences of the Arab Uprisings.
  • demonstrate improved teamwork, writing, presentation and research skills.

Teaching and learning methods

The module will be delivered in ten two-hour blocks of teaching. In the first three seminars, the convener will introduce the underlying driving forces and revolutionary dynamics. As of week 4, students will be involved in the dissemination of knowledge through group presentations. The convener will try to cater to different types of learning by providing imagery in her presentations, and offering links to podcasts or visual forms of learning, where appropriate.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 30%
Written assignment (inc essay) 55%
Oral assessment/presentation 15%

Critical reflection (900 words)            30%    

Essay (1,650 words)                          55%     

Presentation                                      15%


Recommended reading

A detailed weekly reading schedule is laid out in the handbook. Yet the following publications are key texts, which students may wish to purchase and/or read in their entirety. These books are available in the JRUL library.

  • Bayat, Asef (2017);Revolution Without Revolutionaries: Making Sense of the Arab Spring(Stanford: Stanford University Press).

    Halliday, Fred (1999) Revolution and World Politics: The Rise and Fall of the Sixth Great Power (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan).

    Kamrava, Mehran (2014);Beyond the Arab Spring: The Evolving Ruling Bargain in the Middle East (London: Hurst & Company).

    Goldstone, Jack A. (2003);Revolutions: Theoretical, Comparative and Historical Studies;(New York: Harcourt Brace College Publishers).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 130

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Sandra Pogodda Unit coordinator

Return to course details