Sport Politics and Society

Danyel Reiche and Tamir Sorek, eds., Sport, Politics and Society in the Middle East (Oxford University Press/Hurst, 2019).

Sport in the Middle East has become a major issue in global affairs. The contributors to this timely volume discuss the intersection of political and cultural processes related to sport in the region. Eleven chapters trace the historical institutionalization of sport and the role it has played in negotiating ‘Western’ culture. Sport is found to be a contested terrain where struggles are being fought over the inclusion of women, over competing definitions of national identity, over preserving social memory, and over press freedom. Also discussed are the implications of mega-sporting events for host countries, and how both elite sport policies and sports industries in the region are being shaped.

Resource Curse

Mehran Kamrava, guest ed., "The 'Resource Curse' in the Persian Gulf," CIRS Special Issue of Journal of Arabian Studies 8.S1 (September 2018).

The debate on whether resource abundance in general, and resource dependence in particular, is a curse or a blessing is an old one. Paradoxically, despite a proliferation of studies on rentierism in the last two decades or so, the specific notion of a “resource curse” has seldom been studied systematically in relation to the Persian Gulf. The articles in this special issue address this gap, looking specifically at the historical causes and genesis of the phenomenon and its consequences in a variety of areas, including human development, infrastructural growth, clientelism, state-building and institutional evolution, and societal and gender relations.

sites of pluralism

Firat Oruc, ed., Sites of Pluralism: Community Politics in the Middle East (Oxford University Press/Hurst, 2019).

Scholars and policymakers, struggling to make sense of the ongoing chaos in the Middle East, have focused on the possible causes of the escalation in both inter-state and intra-state conflict. But the Arab Spring has shown the urgent need for new ways to frame difference, both practically and theoretically. For some, a fundamental incompatibility between different ethno-linguistic and religious communities lies at the root of these conflicts; these divisions are thought to impede any form of political resolution or social cohesion. But little work has been done to explore how these tensions manifest themselves in the communities of the Middle East. Sites of Pluralism fills this significant gap, going beyond a narrow focus on ‘minorities’ to examine the larger canvas of community politics in the Middle East. This multi-disciplinary volume offers a critical view of the Middle East’s diverse, pluralistic fabric: how it has evolved throughout history; how it influences current political, economic and social dynamics; and what possibilities it offers for the future.


Elizabeth Wanucha and Zahra Babar, guest eds., "Family in the Arabian Peninsula," CIRS Special Issue of Hawwa 16, nos. 1–3 (November 2018).

Despite growing scholarly focus on the Persian Gulf region in recent years, the institution of the family, one of the central building blocks of the Gulf community, has received limited attention. In the six monarchies of the Gulf, as well as in Yemen and Iraq, the family has historically been recognized as the fundamental unit of society within which social, economic, and cultural development takes place. Studying the family in any context is a complex undertaking, as the family exists not in isolation as a conceptual island unto itself, but rather is deeply embedded in and profoundly affected by changes in its surrounding society and the broader political and economic realities that are continuously evolving around it. In addition, to carefully analyze changes in practices within the family, one must also look to the family-oriented policies that have been implemented by governments to date, and their influences on family identity and behavior. These and other similar issues inform the particular articles that comprise this special issue of Hawwa.

why alliances fail

Matt BuehlerWhy Alliances Fail: Islamist and Leftist Coalitions in North Africa (Syracuse University Press, 2018).

Since 2011, the Arab world has seen a number of autocrats, including leaders from Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, fall from power. Yet, in the wake of these political upheavals, only one state, Tunisia, transitioned successfully from authoritarianism to democracy. Opposition parties forged a durable and long-term alliance there, which supported democratization. Similar pacts failed in Morocco and Mauritania, however. In Why Alliances Fail, Buehler explores the circumstances under which stable, enduring alliances are built to contest authoritarian regimes, marshaling evidence from coalitions between North Africa’s Islamists and leftists. Buehler draws on nearly two years of Arabic fieldwork interviews, original statistics, and archival research, including interviews with the first Islamist prime minister in Moroccan history, Abdelilah Benkirane. Introducing a theory of alliance durability, Buehler explains how the nature of an opposition party’s social base shapes the robustness of alliances it builds with other parties. He also examines the social origins of authoritarian regimes, concluding that those regimes that successfully harnessed the social forces of rural isolation and clientelism were most effective at resisting the pressure for democracy that opposition parties exerted. With fresh insight and compelling arguments, Why Alliances Fail carries vital implications for understanding the mechanisms driving authoritarian persistence in the Arab world and beyond. Read more at Syracuse University Press.

Environmental Politics in the Middle East

Harry Verhoeven, ed., Environmental Politics in the Middle East (London: Oxford University Press/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 Oxford University Press.


"The Changing Security Dynamics of the Persian Gulf," CIRS Arabic Summary Report no. 19 (Doha, Qatar: Center for International and Regional Studies, 2018).

أدى التقارب بين أولويات النخب السياسية المحلية وأهداف السياسة الأمريكية إلى إهمال التهديدات الأمنية الناتجة عن الاقتصادات السياسية لدول مجلس التعاون الخليجي. وبدلاً من ذلك، كانت هناك افتراضات مبالغ فيها حول طموحات إيران المهيمنة ونواياها الخبيثة باستخدام السكان الشيعة المحليين كطابورها الخامس. وبعبارات بسيطة، فإن الترتيبات الأمنية الحالية في الخليج تعالج جزئياً التهديدات الأمنية، وهي التهديدات المتصورة التي تنبعث من إيران والعراق باتجاه المملكة العربية السعودية ودول مجلس التعاون الخليجي الأصغر، وتتجاهل التحديات البنيوية الأعمق كون جذورها كامنة في الاقتصادات السياسية الإقليمية.


Leon T. Goldsmith, "The ‘Alawī Shaykhs of Religion: A Brief Introduction," trans. Naser Dumairieh, CIRS Occasional Paper no. 21 (Doha, Qatar: Center for International and Regional Studies, 2018).

يعدّ الاطلاع الدقيق على الماضي والحاضر والأدوار المستقبلية المحتملة للقيادة الدينية للطائفة العلوية ومهامها مسألة إشكالية وسط الصراع السوري المستمر. ويتمثّل الهدف من هذه المقدمة القصيرة في إلقاء بعض الضوء على موضوع القيادة الدينية العلوية، وإبراز الأهمية التاريخية لشيوخ الدين العلويين في الحفاظ على مجتمعهم. طبقت الدراسة منهجاً استقرائياً واستكشافياً ونوعياً يعتمد على الأدبيات الثانوية الموثوقة، والملاحظات الميدانية، والمقابلات مع بعض الشخصيات الرئيسة من داخل الطائفة. الاكتشاف الأبرز لهذه المقالة هو أن النفوذ التقليدية وقدرة القادة الدينيين العلويين على توجيه المجتمع والحفاظ عليه قد ضعفت كثيراً منذ ثمانينات القرن الماضي، الأمر الذي أصبح عاملاً حاسماً في المعضلة التي واجهت العلويين في بداية الأزمة السورية في العام 2011. تأمل هذه الدراسة في المساهمة في مسألة الهوية الدينية والمجتمعية للعلوية في القرن الحادي والعشرين، وذلك لأهمية الموضوع في الجهود المبذولة لحل الأزمة السورية.


"Art and Cultural Production in the GCC," CIRS Arabic Summary Report no. 18 (Doha, Qatar: Center for International and Regional Studies, 2018).

في حين توجهت استثمارات الإمارات وقطر في البداية إلى الاستحواذ على الفن الأجنبي، فإنها، جنباً إلى جنب مع بقية دول مجلس التعاون الخليجي مثل: البحرين والكويت والسعودية وسلطنة عُمان، بدأت تركز على ترشيد الفن المحلي والمعاصر. اتخذت عملية تطور الإنتاج الفني والثقافي في هذه الدول مسارات مختلفة، ولكن الاهتمام الأساسي انصبّ على الحركات الفنية المعاصرة المحلية، التي تعرض، وتعكس، تجارب الحياة اليومية ومُدركات الثقافة الخليجية.

environmental politics

"Environmental Politics in the Middle East," CIRS Summary Report no. 24 (Doha, Qatar: Center for International and Regional Studies, 2018).

This report provides a summary of the "Environmental Politics in the Middle East" research initiative, which explores the geopolitics of natural resources in the Middle East in an attempt to expand the focus to include the region’s many natural resources other than natural gas, such as land, air, water, and food. Some of the issues under investigation include a focus on water scarcity, which is a global issue but one that is particularly acute in the Middle East; its impacts are examined through a case study on Yemen. Food security is studied in the case of Syria, which before the civil war began, in 2011, was one of the region’s notable food exporters. Aside from acute food shortages within Syria, the conflict has had ripple effects on the region and has led to rising food prices in neighboring states, such as Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq.