MA International Relations (Standard)

Year of entry: 2021

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Course unit details:
The Arab Uprisings and Revolutionary State Formation

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
Offered by Politics
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This module analyzes the recent uprisings and the subsequent state formation processes in the Middle East and North Africa and places those processes within theorizing on revolutions and state formation. We will explore the Arab Uprisings in terms of their root causes, revolutionary dynamics, regime responses and the role of external intervention. The role of Islamist movements and the processes of regime fragmentation and survival under the pressure of mass protests will be of particular interest. By focusing on the cases of Tunisia and Egypt, we will then examine the revolutionary state formation processes and evaluate their progress on political, economic and social reforms since 2011 as well as the obstacles that they encounter. The role of transitional justice in the revolutionary process as well as the geopolitical reconfiguration of the region will also be discussed.


The module interrogates the following issues on the basis of prevalent theories of revolution and state formation processes:

·       Which factors explain the recent wave of uprisings in the region?

·       Why have some authoritarian regimes faltered under the pressure of popular uprisings, while others have survived?

·       Why did some uprisings turn violent and what are the consequences of different types of resistance?

·       What has the NATO-led intervention in Libya achieved and why was there not a similar intervention in Syria?

·       What are the main structural obstacles that revolutionaries encounter in the state formation process?

·       What are the local and geopolitical implications of the Arab Uprisings?

Learning outcomes

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


·        engage with theories on social movements, political violence and non-violent resistance, state formation, military intervention and transitional justice.

·        differentiate between divergent types and trajectories of political mobilization through analysis of revolutionary dynamics and the factors that constrain or fuel them.

·        critically assess the driving forces, effects and limitations of foreign interventions in revolutionary 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.