Research Initiatives

GCC Crisis

On June 5, 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, and Bahrain severed diplomatic ties with Qatar. The quartet also imposed a land, maritime, and airspace blockade on Qatar, and restrictions on travels of their nationals to Qatar and Qatari nationals to their countries. The Maldives, Mauritania, Senegal, Djibouti, the Comoros, Jordan, the Tobruk-based Libyan government, and the Hadi-led Yemeni government soon joined the quartet, and severed their ties with Qatar as well. The aforementioned countries claimed that the severing of ties is a reaction to Qatar’s unceasing destabilizing endeavors in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf region, and failure to abide by international commitments and agreements. Such allegations were contested by Qatar claiming that they are “absolute fabrications”. To better understand the causes and consequences of the dynamics at work, the Center for International and Regional Studies is launching a multi-year research initiative that examines the social, political, and economic consequences of the ongoing GCC crisis.

Political Economy of the Middle East

The CIRS research initiative on “The Political Economy of the Contemporary Middle East” adopts a multidisciplinary approach, examining a broad range of political, economic, social, and geographic dynamics in the region. It aims to explore a variety of topics, including prospects of globalization in the post-2011 Middle East; neoliberal policies in the post-uprisings period; military-private sector relations; state-business relations; development policies; the shifting boundaries of economic integration; state bureaucracy; mechanisms and instruments of informal economies; and the dilemma of foreign direct investments. The CIRS initiative addresses these increasingly important, but largely understudied, topics in Middle Eastern studies, and invites a number of experts to take part in in-depth, critical analysis of these pertinent issues. 

Russia and the Middle East

In late 2018, the Center for International and Regional Studies (CIRS) at Georgetown University’s Qatar campus is launching a multi-year research initiative to study Russia’s increasingly proactive and consequential strategic involvement in the Middle East region. While diplomatic, economic, and military relations between Russia and the Middle East have considerable historical roots, Russia’s current, deepening strategic engagement with the region, particularly since the eruption of the Syrian civil war in 2011, appear to signify more fundamental shifts in global and regional realignments. In exploring these shifts and realignments, this research initiative aims to study a variety of related topics, among which: the driver’s behind the mutual interest of partnership between Russia and the Middle East; Russian-Middle Eastern economic cooperation; the prospects of a Russian “sovereign democracy” in the Middle East; Islamic extremism and Russian foreign policy towards the Middle East; contemporary migration patterns between Russia and the Middle East; Russia “responsibility” to protect; and Russia’s relations with Iran, Syria, Israel, the Maghreb, Yemen, and Turkey. A small number of scholars will be invited to take part in in-depth, critical analysis of the nature of the Russian-Middle Eastern relations post the 2011 Arab-uprisings. 

Science and Scientific Production in the Middle East

CIRS is launching a new research initiative on Science and Scientific Production in the Middle East. Through this research initiative, CIRS aims to, among other things, examine: Islamic ethics and the legitimacy of scientific innovation; science and social inequality in the Middle East; the military-industrial complex and technological advancement; economic policies, consumerism, and scientific Innovation in the Middle East; the social impact of scientific research in the Middle East; the role of women and science in the Arab World; and sanctions and scientific production in the region.

Informal Politics in the Middle East

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 is launching 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.

Supporting Social Science Research in a Turbulent Middle East

Over the past several years some countries in the region are increasingly encountering a resurgence of authoritarianism while others are experiencing heightened civil conflict. In addition, in our immediate neighborhood, the geopolitics of the GCC are in a process of reconfiguration, and the current rupture between the six monarchies are creating serious difficulties for scholars, doctoral students, and academics. In light of its commitment to study regional and international issues through dialogue and exchange of ideas, research and scholarship, and engagement with national and international scholars, opinion-makers, practitioners, and activists, the Center for International and Regional Studies (CIRS) is launching a project that explores issues around how the research community can address the multiple challenges encountered when carrying out studies on the Middle East.

Citizenship, Class, and Inequality in the Middle East

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) is launching 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 hopes to broaden and deepen academic understanding of the conception of citizenship within the context of the Middle East.

Nation-Building in Central Asia: Legacies, Identities, and Institutions

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) is launching 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 hopes 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.


The issue of water scarcity continues to be one of the critical challenges that the Middle East faces. The region is arguably the most water-impoverished in the world, and the effects of changes in climate, consumption and agricultural practices, as well as poor governance over water allocation have exacerbated concerns regarding the future of water resources in the Middle East. The United Nations estimates that 18 out of the 30 nations that will be water-scarce by 2025 are located in the Middle East and North Africa. These bleak projections are especially troublesome considering the foundational role that water serves for socio-economic needs such as food, energy, sanitation, and industry.

Sports, Society, and the State in the Middle East

In the Middle East, sports have, for decades, been of pivotal importance to players (both professional and amateur), to impassioned fans and supporters, to industry and business stakeholders, to journalists and the media, to physicians and health professionals, to educators and policymakers, and to societies at large. In various shapes and forms, sports have served as vehicles and venues for political expression and engagement, economic development, national identity creation and assertion, as well as regional and international relations. And yet despite this flowing field of potential sites of research inquiry, there has been a limited amount of scholarly interest in the role that sports have played in the contemporary socio-economic, cultural, and political milieus of the region.