SUMMARY:As we reflect on fifty years of scholarship in the region, one of the most significant shifts has been a widening of the net, from an emphasis on Egypt, Turkey, and other “major” states to those of the Arabian Peninsula. A new generation of scholars, benefiting from pioneering work by the previous generation and with increased access to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, has pursued new lines of inquiry and challenged basic assumptions about how elites, peoples, and states interact in this region. This panel showcases the innovative work of some of these scholars with three aims in mind. First, the collected papers deepen interdisciplinary conversations by including a diverse set of perspectives, new sources of data, and new methodological approaches to understanding these states. Second, the papers span four of the six Arabian Peninsula states, emphasizing contextual and comparative knowledge. Third, by offering new avenues for understanding (a) state-society relations, (b) sectarianism, and (c) the political roles of women and youth, this panel also asserts the mainstream relevance of the Arabian Peninsula to crucial topics of import for the whole region and, indeed, the world.
Two of our papers challenge the conventional wisdom of the Gulf states in the 1970s as powerful political actors that easily deployed their newfound oil wealth to shape the behavior and national identities of their citizens. One paper explores the failure of Saudi Arabia’s political and religious leaders to counter a sophisticated marketing campaign by Western multinational tobacco companies to make Saudi men and women smokers, while the other examines how Arabic-language newspapers depict how Emirati nationals defined citizenship as an active engagement between state and society, shaped by the experience of rapid modernization and transformation of space. The other two papers focus on understanding the political behavior of Gulf nationals today and the role of “outsider” groups. One paper examines the link between corruption and gender to suggest that women may wield subtle political power even in patriarchal societies, while the other paper challenges the assumption that sectarianism is a social force defined by regional and national influences, by arguing that the everyday practices of ordinary people can define national identity and belonging. Our two discussants and panel chair are also scholars of this new generation, and bring their own insights and understandings to further engage in the conversation.
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;
(Middle Tennessee State University)
Dr. Sean Foley is a Professor of History at Middle Tennessee State University (USA). He specializes in the Middle East and religious and political trends in the broader Islamic world. Previously, he taught at Georgetown University, where he earned an...
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair; Organizer; Panel Participating Role(s): Discussant;
(Northwestern University in Qatar)
Jocelyn Sage Mitchell is assistant professor in residence at Northwestern University in Qatar, teaching comparative and American politics and interdisciplinary courses. She is also an affiliated faculty member of Northwestern University's Middle East...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;
(University of Alabama Huntsville)
Dylan Baun is an Assistant Professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He is a historian of the Modern Middle East and Islamic World with a focus on the history of youth and young people. His current research focuses on popular youth clubs,...