To cite this publication: Mehran Kamrava, guest ed., "Leading the Faithful: Religious Authority in the Contemporary Middle East," CIRS Special Issue of Sociology of Islam 6, no. 2 (June 2018).

The post-2011 Middle East has witnessed an increasing politicization of religious authority across the Middle East and among almost all faith communities. Unfolding political and social developments, along with steadily shifting posture and functions of the state vis-à-vis the various religious communities has propelled religious leaders into the role of their communities’ political protectors as well as chief liaisons with state leaders and institutions. Particularly in times of instability and crisis for the community, or even during less chaotic periods of change and transition, the role of religious leaders becomes all the more instrumental in multiple ways. This special issue examines the nature, societal positions, and travails of the Middle East’s various religious communities in the aftermath of the 2011 Arab uprisings, focusing specifically on the role, composition, and functions of their leadership. 


To cite this publication: 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.


The 2007-2017 CIRS Ten-Year Report contains information about all the activities, research initiatives, publications, lectures, and events that CIRS organized over the past ten years. Highlights include the publication of a total of 25 CIRS books, as well as the initiation of 32 research initiatives and 24 grant awards.

A Holistic Assessment of the Water-for-Agriculture Dilemma in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

To cite this publication: Ameen Kim and Hans van der Beek, "A Holistic Assessment of the Water-for-Agriculture Dilemma in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," CIRS Occasional Paper no. 19 (Doha, Qatar: Center for International and Regional Studies, 2018).

Prior to the emergence of the oil industry and the subsequent rapid agricultural expansion of the 1970s, there has been little to no concern about water for agriculture in Saudi Arabia since prehistoric times. However, a rapid expansion—a so-called “agricultural revolution”—introduced rampant use of highly water-consuming irrigation systems, mainly by center pivots, without any limitation. This has greatly compromised the future of nonrenewable water availability for agriculture. Current measures to alleviate the dilemma of water scarcity and sustainable agricultural development for the country have been challenging not only due to technical difficulties, but also because of overarching ideological and political factors. Based on the concluding findings in this article, a holistic approach combining both technical and sociopolitical recommendations is proposed, and is presented for alleviating the predicament.

Newsletter 22

CIRS Newsletter 22 was published in Spring 2017. This newsletter highlights all activities including the latest research initiatives, publications, faculty research, as well as conference participation and exhibitions.

Social Currents in North Africa

To cite this publication: "Social Currents in North Africa," CIRS Summary Report no. 23 (Doha, Qatar: Center for International and Regional Studies, 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.

social currents

"التيّارات الاجتماعية في شمال أفريقيا"، تقرير مركـز الدراسـات الدوليـة والإقليميـة العربي الموجز رقم ٢٣ (الدوحة، قطر: مركـز الدراسـات الدوليـة والإقليميـة، ٢٠١٩).

التيارات الاجتماعية في شمال إفريقيا هو تحليل متعدد الفروع للظواهر الاجتماعية الناشئة في بلاد المغرب اليوم. يقوم المشاركون بتحليل الأصول للسلوك الشمال إفريقي ومعاييره الايديلوجية، ويقدم رؤى إلى عمق السلطة بعد الربيع العربي والاتجاهات الاجتماعية والسياسية السائدة اليوم. يضع الكتاب التطورات الإقليمية ضمن تيارات دولية واسعة، دون تخطي الخصائص المحددة لكل من سياقات الاجتماع التاريخي. وبوجود قواعدها المشتركة التاريخية والثقافية والاجتماعية الاقتصادية، فإن منطقة المغرب العربي تمثل إقليماً متماسكاً للدراسة يسمح بفهم أكبر للتطورات المحلية سواء على صعيد كل دولة على حدة أو من منظور مقارن. يقوم هذا الكتاب بتهذيب الوحدة التاريخية – الجغرافية لبلاد المغرب من خلال تفسير الروابط الاجتماعية، سواء داخل الدولة أو عبر الحدود السياسية والفترات التاريخية. ويصور أن الظواهر غير المؤسسية تعتبر أساسية بنفس القدر للمشروع المستمر للاستقلال لعصر ما بعد الاستعمار، من حيث أهميته للبناء الاجتماعي ونشر سلطة الدولة، ولقياس المواقف المحلية من العدالة الاجتماعية، والتوقعات الاقتصادية، والهوية الثقافية.

Inside the Arab State

To cite this publication: Mehran KamravaInside the Arab State (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 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.

Read about the research initiative

Digital Middle East: State and Society in the Information Age

To cite this publication: "Digital Middle East: State and Society in the Information Age," CIRS Summary Report no. 22 (Doha, Qatar: Center for International and Regional Studies, 2017).

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.


"الشرق الأوسط الرقمي: الدولة والمجتمع في عصر المعلومات"، تقرير مركـز الدراسـات الدوليـة والإقليميـة العربي الموجز رقم ٢٢ (الدوحة، قطر: مركـز الدراسـات الدوليـة والإقليميـة، ٢٠١٩).

خلال السنوات القليلة الماضية، تغير المشهد المعلوماتي والاتصالاتي في منطقة الشرق الأوسط بشكل جذري. فالدول والشركات والأفراد يزيدون من سعيهم وراء الفرص التي تقدمها تلك التقنيات الجديدة، وهو ما يعرف بالتطور السريع للعصر الرقمي وتحسين قدرات التواصل. وهذه التغيرات بعيدة جدا عن إمكانية تحويل دول الشرق الأوسط إلى شبكات اجتماعية، ولكن تأثيرها ملموس. فالنمو المتزايد لتبني مجموعة واسعة من التقنيات في الحياة اليومية قد سبب طفرة في العديد من المتغيرات التي تطمح في الحصول على فهم أفضل. والشرق الأوسط الرقمي يسلط أضواء حرجة على التغيرات المستمرة المتداخلة مع تبني تقنيات المعلومات والاتصالات في المنطقة. عند استحضار نماذج لدراسات حالة من أنحاء الشرق الأوسط، يستكشف المساهمون الأدوار التي تقوم بها هذه التحولات الرقمية في الميادين الاجتماعية والثقافية والسياسية والاقتصادية، كاشفة عن الفواصل والفجوات التي صاحبت ظهور الشرق الأوسط الرقمي.