Books

mobility

Zahra Babar, ed., Mobility and Forced Displacement in the Middle East (Hurst, 2019).

Together, the chapters in this volume emphasise the diversity of the origins, consequences and experiences of human mobility in the Middle East. From multidisciplinary perspectives and through case studies, the contributors offer the reader a deeper understanding of current as well as historical incidences of displacement and forced migration. In addition to offering insights on multiple root causes of displacement, the book also addresses the complex challenges of host–refugee relations, migrants’ integration and marginalisation, humanitarian agencies, and the role and responsibility of states. Cross-cutting themes bind several chapters together: the challenges of categories; the dynamics of control and contestation between migrants and states at borders; and the persistence of identity issues influencing regional patterns of migration.

aspirations

Adham Saouli, ed., Unfulfilled Aspirations: Middle Power Politics in the Middle East (Hurst, 2019).

The first of its kind, this volume addresses that major gap by interrogating the conceptual, theoretical and empirical underpinnings of the concept of ‘Middle Power’ at a regional level. Composed of nine chapters, Unfulfilled Aspirations offers the conceptual and theoretical tools to examine ‘Middle Powerhood’ in the Middle East, as well as insightful empirical analyses of both ‘traditional’ Middle Powers in the region (Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Algeria) and new, aspiring ones (Qatar, the UAE). The contributors reveal that the Middle Powers of the Middle East have failed, despite their best efforts, to fulfill their regional aspirations.

Resource curse

Mehran Kamrava, ed., The "Resource Curse" in the Persian Gulf (London: Routledge, 2019).

The book explores how across the Arabian Peninsula, oil wealth began accruing to the state at a particular juncture in the state-building process, when traditional, largely informal patterns of shaikhly rule were relatively well established, but the formal institutional apparatuses of the state were not yet fully formed. The chapters show that oil wealth had a direct impact on subsequent developments in these two complementary areas. Contributors discuss how on one hand, the distribution of petrodollars enabled political elites to solidify existing patterns of rule through deepening clientelist practices and by establishing new, dependent clients; and how on the other, rent revenues gave state leaders the opportunity to establish and shape institutions in ways that solidified their political control.

Water

Marcus Dubois King, ed., Water and Conflict in the Middle East (Hurst, 2019).

This volume explores the role of water in the Middle East’s current economic, political and environmental transformations, which are set to continue in the near future. In addition to examining water conflict from within the domestic contexts of Iraq, Yemen and Syria—all experiencing high levels of instability today—the contributors shed further light on how conflict over water resources has influenced political relations in the region. They interrogate how competition over water resources may precipitate or affect war in the Middle East, and assess whether or how resource vulnerability impacts fragile states and societies in the region and beyond.

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.

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.

why alliances fail

Matt Buehler, Why 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.

revolution

Mehran Kamrava, Revolution in Iran: the Roots of Turmoil (Routledge, 2018).

Observers of Iran have often ascribed the main cause of the revolution to economic problems under the Shah’s regime.This book, first published in 1990, on the other hand focuses on the political and social factors which contributed of the Pahlavi dynasty. Mehran Kamrava looks at the revolution in detail as a political phenomenon, making use of extensive interviews with former revolutionary leaders, cabinet ministers and diplomats to show the central role of the political collapse of the regime in bringing about the revolution. He concentrates on the internal and the international developments leading to this collapse, and the social environment in which the revolution’s leaders emerged.

Inside the Arab State

Mehran KamravaInside 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. Inside the Arab State 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.