Gulf Studies Symposium (GSS): Knowledge-Based Development in the Gulf, March 13-15, 2015 at the American University of Kuwait

The Center for Gulf Studies at the American University of Kuwait will hold its second Gulf Studies Symposium (GSS) on 13-15 March 2015.

Arab Gulf states increasingly utilize the phrase “knowledge economy” in their development strategies. Policy reports and national strategic plans emphasize the need to move away from natural resource dependency towards “knowledge-based” development, where knowledge, skills, and innovation supposedly drive economic success and competitive advantage. To this end, significant investment in higher education has become a principal strategy across the GCC states. However, what exactly constitutes “knowledge economy” is not always clear, and there is limited research about the on-the-ground negotiations, experiences, challenges, successes, and failures that go into this form of development.

While the higher education sector has been promoted as the keystone of Gulf knowledge economies, fewer resources have been invested in improving the state of national school systems at the primary and secondary levels, in preparing Gulf nationals to attend Western-style colleges and universities, or in promoting local research capacity to replace the overreliance on international consultants in fields like urban planning, environmental protection, and healthcare, among others. Furthermore, although previously sidelined groups like youth and women have become the focus of many knowledge economy goals, others like Bedouin, Shi‘a, the bidūn (stateless), and particularly non-nationals remain marginalized in national development across the region.

The main themes we would like to explore during this symposium include: • The nation-state’s relationship to education development • Gendered realities in education, employment, and research • On-the-ground experiences of particular social groups in knowledge-based development • Knowledge economies in/and the built environment
• The impact of Western expertise and ideologies on higher education • The branch campus experience • Language and identity in Western higher education • Teaching the liberal arts in the Gulf

Inquiries and Submissions should be sent by E-mail to Farah Al-Nakib ( and Micheline Zouein (

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