[P5908] The Fixed and the Changing: From Social Movements to Public Policies Across the MENA Region

Created by Courtney Freer
Monday, 10/05/20 01:30 pm


What explains major policy change in the monarchies of the Middle East (West Asia) and North Africa? Why do the same regimes embark on starkly different trajectories of domestic development, political repression, and foreign intervention at various points in time? Although the uprisings of the Arab Spring wrought little outward change from most of these regimes, the past decade (as in years prior) has witnessed tangible policy changes in welfare programs, foreign adventurism, economic diversification and power-sharing arrangements across these countries.

Development policies, for example, might direct state spending in ways that enrich and empower some social groups at the expense of others - new investments in Saudi Arabia's entertainment and tourism offerings contrast with past efforts to target significant state spending at the Kingdom's underdeveloped periphery. New forms of political inclusion or protection, such as Kuwaiti securing women the right to vote in parliamentary elections, can reorder rigid social hierarchies and in turn influence spending decisions. Likewise, domestic repression or even foreign intervention can determine what forms of opposition can safely arise at home and abroad - from fine-tuning the red lines of the Moroccan press code to deciding whether and how to "restore order" by force in Yemen.

Existing literature on the region's monarchies, whether those of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Jordan, or Morocco, tends to overlook specific means of effecting policy change in favor of focusing on durable institutions of rule or static coalitions of support. To that end, the papers in this panel examine the drivers of policy change in the monarchies of the Arab world. Drawing on recent fieldwork in respective countries to establish clear policy changes and the mechanisms by which they occur, these papers investigate the role of informal institutions, social movements, and elite threat perceptions in shifting these societies' distribution of wealth, rights, and violence via the power of the state.


Pol Science



Sofia Fenner

(Colorado College)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair;

Annelle Sheline

(Quincy Institute)
PhD candidate at George Washington University, specializing in comparative politics, international relations, and Middle East studies. Past life: While in undergrad at NYU, I researched experiences of political agency in north and south Cyprus, and...
Panel Participating Role(s): Discussant;

Courtney Freer

(London School of Economics)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Andrew Leber

(Harvard University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Tyler Parker

(Boston College)
I am a PhD student in Political science at Boston College, where I focus on international relations, diplomacy, and security in the Middle East and North Africa. I have a particular interest in Yemen and the Arab Gulf states. I received my MA in Islamic...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Patrick Snyder

(University of Minnesota)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;