CIRS Summary Report no. 23
Social Currents in North Africa is a multi-disciplinary analysis of the social phenomena unfolding in the Maghreb today. The contributors analyse the genealogies of contemporary North African behavioral and ideological norms, and offer insights into post-Arab Spring governance and today’s social and political trends. The book situates regional developments within broader international currents, without forgoing the distinct features of each socio-historical context. With its common historical, cultural, and socio-economic foundations, the Maghreb is a cohesive area of study that allows for greater understanding of domestic developments from both single-country and comparative perspectives. This volume refines the geo-historical unity of the Maghreb by accounting for social connections, both within the nation-state and across political boundaries and historical eras. It illustrates that non-institutional phenomena are equally formative to the ongoing project of post-colonial sovereignty, to social construction and deployments of state power, and to local outlooks on social equity, economic prospects, and cultural identity.
Kamrava, Mehran.Troubled Waters: Insecurity in the Persian Gulf. Cornell University Press, 2018.
Troubled Waters looks at four dynamics in the Persian Gulf that have contributed to making the region one of the most volatile and tension-filled spots in the world. Mehran Kamrava identifies the four dynamics as: the neglect of human dimensions of security; the inherent instability involved in reliance on the United States and the exclusion of Iraq and Iran; the international and security policies pursued by inside and outside actors; and a suite of overlapping security dilemmas. These four factors combine and interact to generate long-term volatility and ongoing tensions within the Persian Gulf. Through insights from Kamrava’s interviews with Gulf elites into policy decisions, the consequences of security dilemmas, the priorities of local players, and the neglect of identity and religion, Troubled Waters examines the root causes of conflicts and crises that are currently unfolding in the region. As Kamrava demonstrates, each state in the region, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Qatar, has embarked on vigorous security-producing efforts as part of foreign policy, flooding the area with more munitions—thereby increasing insecurity and causing more mistrust in a part of the world that needs no more tension.
CIRS Summary Report no. 22
In recent years, the Middle East’s information and communication landscape has changed dramatically. Increasingly, states, businesses, and citizens are capitalising on the opportunities offered by new technologies, the fast pace of digitisation, and enhanced connectivity. These changes are far from turning Middle Eastern nations into network societies, but their impact is significant. The growing adoption of a wide variety of technologies in everyday life has given rise to complex dynamics that beg for a better understanding. Digital Middle East sheds a critical light on the continuing changes closely intertwined with the adoption of information and communication technologies in the region. Drawing on case studies from throughout the Middle East, the contributors explore how these digital transformations are playing out in the social, cultural, political, and economic spheres, exposing the various disjunctions and discordances that have marked the advent of the digital Middle East.
CIRS Summary Report no. 21
The Red Star and the Crescent provides an in-depth and multi-disciplinary analysis of the evolving relationship between China and the Middle East. Despite its increasing importance, very few studies have examined this dynamic, deepening, and multi-faceted nexus. James Reardon-Anderson has sought to fill this critical gap. The volume examines the ‘big picture’ of international relations, then zooms in on case studies and probes the underlying domestic factors on each side. Reardon-Anderson tackles topics as diverse as China’s security strategy in the Middle East, its military relations with the states of the region, its role in the Iran nuclear negotiations, the Uyghur question, and the significance and consequences of the Silk Road strategy.
CIRS Summary Report no. 20
The situation of the healthcare systems in the Gulf has become multi-tiered, primarily due to the lack of systematic population health need assessments, including short-term health solutions for low-skilled workers. Even though the Gulf region has attained significant social and economic achievements in a short span of time, healthcare policies are still centered more on curative health and not enough emphasis has been placed on protective and preventive measures. There is a lack of medical educational institutions in the Gulf, and the role of the private sector is in need of further study as there is no explanation as to why patients are shifting from public to private healthcare institutions.
CIRS Occasional Paper no. 18
Lawrence G. Potter, Columbia University
This essay takes as its focus society in the Persian Gulf over the long term, both before and after oil. In order to understand the transitions society has gone through, it is necessary to review the region’s historical evolution and how society in the Gulf today differs from that of the pre-oil era. The Gulf is presented as a distinct historical region, where a tradition of free movement helped account for the success of its port cities, themselves linked more to the Indian Ocean basin than the Middle East. In the twentieth century, the historic ties that connected the people of the Gulf littoral were curtailed as nationalism became the dominant ideology, and borders and passports were imposed. After oil was discovered and exports began following World War II, the small Gulf shaikhdoms, most of which were under British protection until 1971, experienced a surge in revenues that ushered in the modern era. Newly independent states sought to impose a new identity, manipulate history, and exploit sectarian cleavages to solidify the power of ruling dynasties. The historic cosmopolitanism of the Gulf was ignored by states that privileged the tribal, Bedouin heritage of their leaders. Arabs and Persians, both Sunni and Shi‘a, as well as many other groups have lived with each other in the region for many centuries, during which mutual differences occasionally led to conflict. But the current mistrust, tension, and sense of vulnerability felt by all sides is a product of the modern age.
CIRS Summary Report no. 19
Academic interest in Gulf security has continued to focus on traditional notions of zero-sum security threats emanating from Iran or Iraq, or the role of the United States. There has been limited exploration of the deeper, structural issues that threaten the region. In line with this, in the 2014-2015 academic year, CIRS launched a research initiative on “The Changing Security Dynamics of the Persian Gulf.” The purpose of this project is to scrutinize the ways in which domestic security threats in the region are evolving, and how newer challenges related to human security are being reinforced by—and in some ways actually replacing—military threats emanating from regional and outside actors. This project brings together a number of distinguished scholars to examine a variety of relevant topics, which resulted in original research chapters published in an edited volume titled, The Changing Security Dynamics of the Persian Gulf (Oxford University Press/Hurst, 2017), edited by Kristian Coates Ulrichsen. This Summary Report contains synopses of those chapters.
Kamrava, Mehran. Inside the Arab State. Oxford University Press/Hurst, 2018.
The 2011 Arab uprisings and their subsequent aftermath have thrown into question some of our long-held assumptions about the foundational aspects of the Arab state. While the regional and international consequences of the uprisings continue to unfold with great unpredictability, their ramifications for the internal lives of the states in which they unfolded are just as dramatic and consequential. States historically viewed as models of strength and stability have been shaken to their foundations. Borders thought impenetrable have collapsed; sovereignty and territoriality have been in flux. Power and Politics in the Arab World adopts a multi-disciplinary approach, examining a broad range of political, economic, and social variables. It begins with an examination of politics, and more specifically political institutions, in the Arab world from the 1950s on, tracing the travail of states, and the wounds they inflicted on society and on themselves along the way, until the eruption of the 2011 uprisings. The uprisings, the states' responses to them, and efforts by political leaders to carve out for themselves means of legitimacy are also discussed, as are the reasons for the emergence and rise of Daesh and the Islamic State. This book examines some of the central questions facing observers and scholars of the Middle East concerning the nature of power and politics before and after 2011 in the Arab world. The focus of the book revolves around the very nature of politics and the exercise of power in the Arab world, conceptions of the state, its functions and institutions, its sources of legitimacy, and basic notions underlying it such as sovereignty and nationalism. Read more at Oxford University Press.
Verhoeven, Harry, ed. Environmental Politics in the Middle East. London: Hurst, 2018.
This book investigates how ecology and politics meet in the Middle East and how those interactions connect to the global political economy. Through region-wide analyses and case studies from the Arabian Peninsula, the Gulf of Aden, the Levant and North Africa, the volume highlights the intimate connections of environmental activism, energy infrastructure and illicit commodity trading with the political economies of Central Asia, the Horn of Africa and the Indian subcontinent. The book’s nine chapters analyse how the exploitation and representation of the environment have shaped the history of the region—and determined its place in global politics. It argues that how the ecological is understood, instrumentalised and intervened upon is the product of political struggle: deconstructing ideas and practices of environmental change means unravelling claims of authority and legitimacy. This is particularly important in a region frequently seen through the prism of environmental determinism, where ruling elites have imposed authoritarian control as the corollary of ‘environmental crisis’. This unique and urgent collection will question much of what we think we know about this pressing issue. Read more at Hurst Publishers.
Abi-Mershed, Osama, ed. Social Currents in North Africa: Culture and Governance after the Arab Spring. Oxford/Hurst, 2018.
Social Currents in North Africa is a multi-disciplinary analysis of the social phenomena unfolding in the Maghreb today. The contributors analyse the genealogies of contemporary North African behavioral and ideological norms, and offer insights into post-Arab Spring governance and today’s social and political trends. The book situates regional developments within broader international currents, without forgoing the distinct features of each socio-historical context. With its common historical, cultural, and socio-economic foundations, the Maghreb is a cohesive area of study that allows for greater understanding of domestic developments from both single-country and comparative perspectives. This volume refines the geo-historical unity of the Maghreb by accounting for social connections, both within the nation-state and across political boundaries and historical eras. It illustrates that non-institutional phenomena are equally formative to the ongoing project of post-colonial sovereignty, to social construction and deployments of state power, and to local outlooks on social equity, economic prospects, and cultural identity. Read more at Oxford University Press.