Panel 6E

Internal Networks of Opposition and Opportunity in the Gulf

15.00 – 17.00

Years of Impending Doom: Recent Views on the Sultanate of Oman

Marielle Risse, Dhofar University

Most writing about Oman is optimistic and complimentary of Sultan Qaboos. Peterson, the éminence grise of Oman history, and Wilkinson both portray the steady, positive development of a modern county; Jones and Ridout’s several publications highlight the polite “diplomacy” that is characteristic of Oman. But there is another perspective, not just viewing Oman’s history in a more negative light, but forecasting disaster. The first proponent of this view is Halliday’s Arabia without Sultans: A Political Survey of Instability in the Arab World (1975). This tone is picked up and amplified in recent books such as Beasant’s Oman: The True-life Drama and Intrigue of an Arab State (2002/ 2012), Valeri’s Oman: Politics and Society in the Qaboos State (2009), and Davidson’s After the Sheikhs: The Coming Collapse of the Gulf Monarchies (2015). In addition,  Takriti’s Monsoon Revolution: Republicans, Sultans and Empires in Oman 1965-1976 (2013) recasts the Dhofar War (1965-1975) which is generally seen as an example of a conflict with a successful resolution, as a missed opportunity. In my paper I will examine these works and others, including texts by Price (1975), Kelly (1980), Risso (1986), Riphenburg (1998), Allen and Ahmed (2002), Owtram (2004), Plekhanov (2004), Kechichian (2006), Rabi (2006), Worrall (2014) and Funsch (2015). Using these texts and insights gained from living in Oman for over ten years, I will discuss the opposing positive and negative views, highlighting two specific topics: how the issue of religion is handled and the use of elites as informants.

Information Technology and Transnational Political Activism in the Arab Gulf states

Gertjan Hoetjes, University of Exeter

In this paper, it will be analysed how information technology has affected transnational activism in the Gulf Arab states (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar). In order to do so, a comparison will be drawn between the transnational Arab nationalist movements that emerged in the region in the 1950s and the regional activist movement of today. Adopting a framework introduced by Charles Tilly and Sidney Tarrow,[1] this paper explores how these movements have been formed and evolved over time, how their members have diffused ideas, knowledge and practices among each other and how these movements have engaged in collective action. There will be a special focus on communication technology: what kind of technologies have been employed by both movements and how has the communication technology used affected their strategies, methods and ability to operate on a transnational level? By comparing a transnational movement that operated before the introduction of information technology with a transnational movement that was formed when information technology was firmly embedded in the societies of the Gulf Arab states, this paper aims to determine the impact of information technology on transnational political activism in the Gulf Arab states. In order to determine this impact, the paper will draw from the interviews conducted by the author in Kuwait, Oman and the United Kingdom in 2016 and 2017 and the extensive academic literature and archival material available on the Arab nationalist movement in the Gulf Arab states.

Framing the Roles of Malaysian Non-State Actors in Enhancing it’s Relationship with the Arab Gulf States

Mohd Fauzi Abu-Hussin, University Teknologi Malaysia and University of Cambridge

For more than 40 years, there has been a growing interest in the areas of socio-political and economic interactions between Malaysia and the individual Arab Gulf States. This is most likely because of the economic interaction between these nations and Malaysia, as well as the influence of religious affinity inclined by Malaysia and the Arab Gulf states. Invariably, this has led to proliferation and establishment of numerous non-state actors who are also playing momentous roles in enhancing the bilateral relationships. Therefore, the aim of this paper is not only to examine and investigate the influence and contributions of non- state actors in enhancing Malaysia’s relationship with the Arab Gulf states but also a significant attempt to assess the role of Malaysian non-state actors in shaping future direction with the Arab Gulf countries, and the extent to which the Malaysian foreign policy has intensified the role of non-state actors.

“The Side Door is Open”: Re-Signifying Community in Kuwait after the Arab Spring

Emanuela Buscemi, University of Aberdeen

In 2011-2013, Kuwait experienced its own version of the Arab Spring. Motivated and inspired by the mobilizations in Tunisia and Egypt, tens of thousands of people rallied in the main streets and around the most iconic monuments to protest against corruption and demanding reforms. Among the protesters were many women and young people. The government, at first vigilant, subsequently repressed the protests, jailed activists and issued new tighter regulations of the social media.  Mutuating theories of social change focused both on Latin America and the Middle East, the present paper seeks to investigate the attempts of Kuwaiti youth and women to forge and re-imagine a new sense of community centred around a renewed civic engagement. De facto excluded from the formal sites of power, these new social and political actors attempt to undermine the dominant cultural narratives and push the boundaries of citizenship, operating in the interstices between culture and politics, civil society and state through the production of alternative cultural politics. The elaboration of an alternative sense of community is marked by a shift of political socialization and activism, and the extension of political debate to more informal venues of participation, the aggregating role of social media, and the elaboration of new projects of participation in society, re-signifying collective identity through processes of creative cultural transgression.  The present paper draws upon original data collected through ethnographic work conducted in Kuwait between January 2015 and June 2016.