Awards 2017

2017 AGAPS Inaugural Book Award

Dr. Farah Al-Nakib, American University of Kuwait

Kuwait Transformed: A History of Oil and Urban Life (Stanford University Press, 2016).

As a testament to the current state of the scholarship on the Gulf, many of the nominated books tackled topics that were both innovative and significant, featured meticulous and in-depth research, and were compelling in their focus and their arguments.

After extensive deliberations, the committee selected a book that in all respects represents the best that scholarship on the Gulf has to offer. This is a book that is painstakingly researched. It challenges our assumptions but also enhances our understanding of the increasing importance of the Gulf region to the rest of the Middle East and beyond. The book also successfully brings together insights from several disciplines and critically engages with them. Last but not least, the book is beautifully written, with the meticulous eye of an insider and yet a lucid and engaging style.

 Al-Nakib’s book examines the dramatic transformation of Kuwait from a dusty pearling village to the global city it is today. With a historian’s keen eye for detail, Al-Nakib takes the reader on a rich journey through the transformation of Kuwait from pre-oil days to the present along the three axes of urban landscape, patterns and practices of everyday life, and social behaviors and relations. Along the way, we learn about the role of rulers and merchants, the functions of urban spaces, the role of urban planning, the growth of state power, the onslaught of modernity and the move to suburbia, the changing architectural look of the city, and who can and cannot access it.

This is a work of tremendous importance. It is rich in its empirical detail, original in its interpretations, comprehensive in scope, and convincing in its arguments. AGAPS is pleased to inaugurate its Book Awards with such a solid work of scholarship.


2017 AGAPS Dissertation Award

Dr. Jessie Moritz, Australia National University        

Slick Operators: Revising Rentier State Theory for the Modern Arab States of the Gulf

Dr. Matthew Gray, Supervisor.

 This dissertation makes an outstanding and original contribution to both the theoretical advancement of Rentier State Theory and its applicability to three Gulf States - Bahrain, Qatar and Oman - as countries with different histories of socioeconomic and political development. The thesis shows a penetrating critical reading of rentier state theories while delivering deep insights into the crucial period following the so called Arab Spring. These insights add much to our comparative understanding of mechanisms of societal political interactions, developments of social movements (particularly in terms of the perceptions and motivations of those who animated them), notions of political reformism, state society relations, and conflicts between oppositions and loyalists.

One of Moritz’s remarkable achievements is that she reaches innovative theoretical conclusions on the limits and limitations of the rentier state theory thus adding to a very prolific strand of academic research on the Gulf region. This is a piece of research that also stands out for its brilliant execution and diligently collected documentation. It is empirically very rich, based on an impressive breadth and depth of fieldwork conducted in countries which are becoming increasingly difficult to research.  The author combines considerable interpretive skills with an almost impeccable and judicious methodology, both of which underpin the success of the thesis’ findings. This is a bold analysis of the most recent and present condition of the rentier political economic order, an order whose understanding is increasingly reliant on the regional/comparative vistas brought to the fore by this work. 


AGAPS 2017 Graduate Paper Prize

 Huda AlSahi, Sucola Normale Superiore di Pisa

Examining ad-hoc abeyance structures on Twitter: The case of the campaign to end the male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia

Professors Donatella Della Porta and Lorenzo Mosca, Supervisors

This paper is remarkable for its strong theoretical focus on the model of abeyance in the new - that is non-democratic - setting of Saudi Arabia, and for its neat structure, empirical substance and quality of argumentation. It also delivers a comprehensive overview of literature and makes use in an exemplary way both Social Network Analysis and Content Analysis to scrutinize the role played by social media in Saudi Arabia’s women movement. This paper is also timely as it allows deep insights into the dynamics of the virtual activities of women in Saudi patriarchal society, it might serve as an inspiration for future research on social media, an often underused source in the study of the Gulf region