The multiple sites of public protest and resistance seen during the Arab Spring were a result of the coalescing of different social forces and the spontaneous display of citizens’ activism not seen for decades. The mobilization of those different sets of informal actors that has been rooted in previous activism within the informal sector of society revitalized the significance of looking beyond the state in order to understand social and political forces and dynamics. Since the Arab Spring there has been an increasing academic and policy interest in studying the role and influence of informal spaces where networks of activism and resistance might develop and grow. CIRS launched this new research project on "Informal Politics in the Middle East" to, among other things, expand our understanding of the historical roots of informal networks in the Middle East, their capacity to engage as an alternate setting for political engagement, and to study the continuities and discontinuities in the state-informal actors relationship in the region.
Much of the existing literature on the region, when it comes to citizenship, has been fixed on the limitation of rights afforded to citizens in authoritarian states, and on the inherent imbalance between citizens’ access to rights versus the power of autocratic regimes that govern them. There has been less of a focus on the linkages between citizenship, class, and persistent inequality in the Middle East. In line with this, Center for International and Regional Studies (CIRS) launched a new research project to examine some of the central questions around issues of citizenship, identity, nationalism, class, marginalization, and inequality. Through this project, CIRS hoped to broaden and deepen academic understanding of the conception of citizenship within the context of the Middle East.
As part of a wider strategy to expand its research boundaries to areas east of the Middle East, the Center for International and Regional Studies (CIRS) launched a new research project to examine some of the central questions relating to nation-building processes as they have unfolded in Central Asia. A foundational underpinning to this research effort is an interest in examining how the Central Asian states have navigated their early dilemmas, what their path towards nation building over the past thirty years has been like, and what the consequences for particular strategies adopted for the different states have been. Among other things, through this project CIRS hoped to broaden and deepen academic understanding of how these young states launched efforts to build their unified, modern nations, in what ways they have managed to establish political and social cohesion, and how they have engaged in the processes of administrative and institutional consolidation.
This research initiative investigates the dynamics, position of, and role played by spiritual leaders of different religious communities in the Middle East during and after the Arab uprisings. The research project includes examinations of the leaders of the multiple religions and faiths present in the Middle East, which will include Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Bahá’ism, Druze, Yazidism, Alevism, and Zoroastrianism. The project explores a variety of topics such as religious leadership; traditional authority; sovereignty; state conceptions and management of religions, faiths, and sacred sites; women religious leaders; training and religious qualifications; political economy of the religious establishment; and religious-political movements, sources of power, and resistance.
Migration on a global scale is an everyday practice. The term itself is used to describe patterns of human mobility that occur internally within a state or region, as well as those taking place internationally and trans-continentally. Migration can be applied to the process of people moving as a result of their own agency, voluntarily and as a choice. It can also be used to describe the process of having to move under duress, and this includes the categories of forced migrants, internally displaced persons, refugees, and asylum seekers.This project recognizes regional migration as a complex, widespread, and persistent phenomenon in the Middle East, and a topic best studied from a multidisciplinary approach. It broadens our understanding of the complex population movements that are seen in the Middle East, and includes the movements of those who may be identified in multiple different ways—migrants, migrant workers, guest workers, temporary migrants, low and highly skilled economic migrants, trafficked persons, forced migrants/forced workers, smuggled persons, refugees, and asylum seekers. Also included will be other migrants such as unaccompanied minors, environmental refugees, and stranded migrants.
This research project revisits some of the fundamental assumptions about the nature, patterns, and processes of labor migration to the GCC states. Given their own relatively small populations in tandem with their oil-derived, wealthy Gulf States have depended on migration to facilitate their rapid industrialization. The cities of the Gulf thus articulate the transnational organizational and social networks of skilled migration, spatially embedded within expatriate social spaces. Notably highly skilled migrants in certain sectors–for example, extraction, construction, banking and financial services–have enabled these states’ relatively swift integration into the global economy.
Scholars and policy makers, struggling to make sense of the ongoing chaos that is the Middle East, have been focusing their attention on the possible causes for the escalation of both inter-state and intra-state conflict. This region bears the legacy of multiple imperial excursions and has traditionally demonstrated pronounced ethno-linguistic richness, religious diversity, and a depth of cultural intermingling. The region has historically hosted multiple populations with distinctive ethnic and linguistic identities, preserved in previous eras under the loosely structured administrative bodies of different empires that were, as a result of their sprawling geography, multiethnic, multilingual, and multicultural. In order to explore some of these areas mentioned above, the CIRS research initiative “Pluralism and Community in the Middle East” will adopt a multi-disciplinary approach. Over the course of the year, a small number of scholars will be invited to take part in an in-depth, scholarly analysis aiming to address the critical gaps in the current literature. The final outcome of this project will be in the form of an edited volume.
Much of the research on "Art and Cultural Production in the Gulf" tends to focus on the rapidly growing museum culture and the acquisition of foreign art as indicative of several Gulf states' use of oil revenue. Over the past fifteen years, Khaleeji culture has been inundated by rapid demographic, economic, and social changes that continue to challenge the more traditional customs and values. At present, rapid development in the GCC states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) has not only affected social and political institutions underpinning Gulf societies, but also artistic and cultural institutions and their undertakings. In line with this, CIRS has launched a research initiative to provide further insight into the relationships and connections between the Gulf states and the art and cultural industries that exist within these societies.
CIRS launched a multi-disciplinary research initiative in collaboration with Silatech to explore the ways in which youth manage and respond to various socio-economic and political constraints across the region. As many of the region’s youth are contending with the effects of social and economic exclusion, this project explores the ways in which youth manage and respond to various socio-economic and political constraints across the region, as well as the potentials of policy to support youth. Toward this end, attention is given to the diversity of youth and socio-economic and politics contexts across the region. Additionally, this research initiative examines the ways in which Middle Eastern youth collectively regenerate a new consciousness and forge novel methods of mobilization.
The purpose of this CIRS research initiative is to better understand how structural and ideational forces of change have been reflected in the everyday lives of Gulf families. Few studies have explored the challenges facing the Gulf family in the context of the global forces at play in the Gulf region. In an effort to understand how structural and ideational forces of change have been reflected in the everyday lives of Gulf families, CIRS launched this grant-funded multi-disciplinary research initiative to explore questions related to this topic.
The Arab migrant communities present in the Gulf have been a neglected area and merit further scholarly discussion and focus. In line with this,CIRS launched a multi-disciplinary research initiative entitled "Arab Migrant Communities in the GCC" that explores questions related to the topic.
The Politics and the Media in the Post-Arab Spring Middle East research project explores the role of traditional and new media across the Middle East before, during, and after the events of the Arab Spring.
The Migrant Labor in the Persian Gulf research initiative examines the multiple causes, processes, and consequences of labor migration in this region from the disciplinary perspectives of sociology, anthropology, political science, and economics. The outcome of this project is the Migrant Labor in the Persian Gulf book that critically analyzes the effects of migration on native communities through original and empirically grounded research, identifying the types and functions of formal and informal binational and multinational networks emerging from and sustaining migration patterns. The authors of this edited volume also explore the role of recruitment agencies, as well as look at the values and behaviors of migrant workers both before and after they set off for the Persian Gulf.