Research Initiatives

China and the Middle East CIRS Working Group

With the disintegration of the region’s traditionally strong states of Iraq and Syria, the constriction of Iran, and the loss of Egypt’s capacity to assert any real influence or project power, there appears to be little capacity within the Middle East and North Africa to address regional conflagrations. China’s engagements and intentions in the Middle East have increasingly become the focus of a range of academic and policy studies. Much of the existing scholarship has viewed Chinese engagements in the Middle East through the lens of security, with particular attention being paid to the implications of China’s interactions for the United States and its allies. However, China’s evolving relationship in the region ought to be principally viewed as an outcome of its own interests in securing its energy needs and developing export markets, as well as the fact that it has become a significant global power and cannot afford to divorce itself from events in the Arab world. In the 2014-2015 academic year CIRS has launched a new research initiative on “China and the Middle East.” The purpose of this project is to examine the unfolding relationship between China and the Middle East using a multi-disciplinary lens. The intention of this project is to provide an analytical study of the relationship between China and the countries of the Middle East, not only through the lenses of international security, energy, economics and investments, but also taking into account China’s broader engagements with the region in the social and cultural spheres as well.

The Great Game Map

Contemporary West Asia is typically portrayed as a region of fragility, plagued by lingering interstate conflict, ridden with the fallout from unresolved territorial disputes, and unsettled by the persistence of ethnic and religious identities which do not easily align with the creation of strong nation-states. In addition, persistent and debilitating authoritarian rule, the lack of political participation, and slow economic growth all cast their shadows on these states. Currently, the region has re-emerged as an area of geostrategic significance because of complex circumstances evolving in the Caucasus which have global implications.  In addition, the region draws extensive external attention due to its access to energy resources, and particularly to its crucial role in existing and planned pipelines that provide gas to Europe and elsewhere. The events of 2011, while primarily involving only a small number of Arab states in the Middle East, have induced a sense that there is a global necessity to move towards more participatory forms of governance and to address outstanding issues of identity politics that undermine domestic, regional, and international stability. In line with this, in the 2014-2015 academic year CIRS has launched a new research initiative to provide further insight into the complex relationships and connections between the states of West Asia in geographic, political and socio-cultural terms.

Youth in the Middle East

CIRS launched a multi-disciplinary research initiative in collaboration with Silatech to explore the ways in which youth manage and respond to various socio-economic and political constraints across the region. As many of the region’s youth are contending with the effects of social and economic exclusion, this project explores the ways in which youth manage and respond to various socio-economic and political constraints across the region, as well as the potentials of policy to support youth. Toward this end, attention is given to the diversity of youth and socio-economic and politics contexts across the region. Additionally, this research initiative examines the ways in which Middle Eastern youth collectively regenerate a new consciousness and forge novel methods of mobilization.

The Digital Middle East

This research initiative will explore access to the digital realm in the Middle East, how the internet and digital ICTs are being utilized by various actors, the materiality and context in which they are being used, and how these instruments can be used for individual, local, national, and global social, economic, and political transformations. The social, economic, and political aspects of the diffusion of digital technologies in the Middle East are of increasing importance to understanding the region at both the macro-level and at the level of the individual and how it affects daily life. 

The Gulf Family

The purpose of this CIRS research initiative is to better understand how structural and ideational forces of change have been reflected in the everyday lives of Gulf families. Few studies have explored the challenges facing the Gulf family in the context of the global forces at play in the Gulf region. In an effort to understand how structural and ideational forces of change have been reflected in the everyday lives of Gulf families, CIRS launched this grant-funded multi-disciplinary research initiative to explore questions related to this topic. 

The Changing Security Dynamics of the Persian Gulf

This CIRS project scrutinizes 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. Academic interest in Persian 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 which threaten the region. In line with this, in the 2014-2015 academic year CIRS launched a new 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.

World Regions: The Middle Eastern Pivot

Co-Sponsored with the Stony Brook Institute for Global Studies.

A new research initiative on world regions and civilizations was jointly launched by CIRS and the Stony Brook Institute for Global Studies (SBIGS). Integration of social theory and regional studies is a major project of SBIGS, and the pioneering volume on this subject, Social Theory and Regional Studies in the Global Age has just been published in the Institute’s Pangaea II: Global/Local Studies with SUNY Press. This volume highlighted the promise of civilizational analysis/multiple modernities, and within it, singled out two concepts for further analysis: that of world regions and regional unity, on the one hand, and the civilizational constituents of power and the geopolitics of regional divides, on the other.

Healthcare Policy and Politics in the Gulf States

CIRS launched a multi-disciplinary research initiative that explores the economic, political, and social implications of healthcare management in the region. Rapid changes to the environment and lifestyle of the Gulf over the course of mere decades have completely changed the health profile of the region. In order to promote rigorous, academic exploration of this subject, CIRS launched a research project on the topic of “Healthcare Policy and Politics in the Gulf States.” The purpose of the CIRS research initiative is to determine the economic, political, and social implications of healthcare management in the region. Employing a multi-disciplinary perspective this project examines existing conditions of healthcare systems in the GCC, identifies the existing challenges and pressures on the countries and societies, and assesses how through their policymaking apparatus is attempting to meet these challenges.

Social Currents in the Maghreb

This research initiative investigates variations in social movement mobilization in the five countries of the Maghreb before, during, and after the Arab Spring. It also examines contemporary social and cultural trends present throughout society. CIRS launched a research initiative on “Social Currents in the Maghreb” in order to investigate variations in social movement mobilization in Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, and Algeria before, during, and after the Arab Spring. The project also examines contemporary social and cultural trends evident throughout Maghrabi society. The research initiative comprises a series of tightly-focused, empirically-grounded studies that focus on both comparative and single-country case studies that examine social movements and currents in North Africa.

The Evolution of Gulf Global Cities

This research initiative examines dynamics of urban configurations in the Gulf region (the GCC, Yemen, Iraq and Iran) to understand the city as a political, cultural and social space. By engaging with urban sociologists, social geographers, political scientists, city planners, and architects, this multi-disciplinary research project links macro-level knowledge of urbanization and modernization projects in the Gulf, with the micro-level understanding of everyday spaces of living and human interaction.