[P6421] Societal Resistance in the Arab Gulf States

Created by Dana El Kurd
Friday, 12/03/21 11:30 am


Arab Gulf states have engaged in more aggressive foreign policy as well as tightened their grip on domestic opposition, in an attempt to ensure their durability in the aftermath of the region’s uprisings. Moreover, authoritarian diffusion and transnational repression have become all the more prevalent, as regimes coordinate across the region to crack down on dissent. But, what of resistance to these dynamics? Specifically, what is the impact of this rising authoritarianism on citizens, opposition groups, and social movements within the states that serve as a source of authoritarianism in the region? How have repertoires of contention shifted in response to coordinated transnational repression?

This panel would address the changing nature of political mobilization, protest, and resistance to authoritarianism within the Arab Gulf states. This is an understudied dynamic; researchers have a tendency to flatten or reduce the intricacies of the Gulf region, and often only study Gulf societies through the lens of oil and foreign policy. The papers on this panel go beyond this narrow focus, highlighting societal resistance in the Gulf from a number of disciplinary perspectives. The papers are wide-ranging in method and scope, covering 5 out of 6 GCC countries. These include a historical assessment of labor movements at the founding of the Arab Gulf states; analysis of the efficacy of state propaganda today using original survey data; an ethnographic study of pro-Palestine activism in the Gulf and its impact on demands for democracy, in light of increased transnational repression; and finally, research on the strategies opposition groups use to adapt to repression and hide their activities, particularly after the failed uprisings. All the contributions to this panel focus specifically on societies of the Arab Gulf states and their agency – rather than on institutions or elites as is often the case. We address the various ways in which even seemingly acquiescent groups challenge state narratives and pressure leadership. The panel seeks to highlight how, as Amitav Acharya (2014) notes, agency is not just “the prerogative of the strong,” but can also “manifest as the weapon of the weak.”


Pol Science; Pol Science; Pol Science




Omar AlShehabi

(Gulf Centre for Development Policies)
Omar AlShehabi is Visiting Associate Professor in Sociology at the University of British Columbia, and Director of the Gulf Centre for Development Policies in Kuwait. His latest work in English is Contested Modernity: Sectarianism, Nationalism, and Colonialism...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Dana El Kurd

(University of Richmond)
Dana El Kurd is a PhD candidate at the University of Texas at Austin. She is interested in authoritarian regime persistence in the Arab world.
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair; Discussant; Organizer; Presenter;

Jessie Moritz

(Australian National University)
Jessie Moritz received her PhD in 2017 from the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies (the Middle East and Central Asia) at the Australian National University, where she specialised on Gulf development. She is an advanced Arabic speaker and has travelled...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Andrew Leber

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