Politics and Reform in the Gulf

Module titlePolitics and Reform in the Gulf
Module codeARA3163
Academic year2018/9
Module staff

Dr Marc Valeri (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module explores the dynamics of politics and reform in the states of the Gulf region (Arabian Peninsula and Iran). It covers the interaction of tradition and neo-traditional features with modern state politics and globalisation; the impact of oil; the question of ‘rentierism’; and the domestic, regional and international factors involved in the question of reform.

This module is suitable for specialist and non-specialist alike. No prior knowledge is required.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module aims to provide an understanding of political dynamics in the Gulf states in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. The core focus of the module is the debate over whether authoritarianism is likely to persist in the region, or whether recent political developments in the region bear witness of the beginning of a so-called ‘Gulf spring.’ Moreover this module is designated to provide you with a better and nuanced understanding of the individual regimes in contemporary Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf in comparative perspective. A further aim of the course is to develop your analytical thinking skills as independent researchers and to develop intellectual ability to place issues discussed in a wider context, beyond common knowledge immediately available in the media.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. demonstrate an ability to locate, appraise and use main sources of information and data relating to the Gulf states' politics;
  • 2. demonstrate an understanding of the main issues in the politics of the Gulf, including the politics of reform;
  • 3. demonstrate a grasp of different analytical approaches towards the study of the Gulf's political systems, and an ability to make informed judgements regarding the similarities and contrasts of different Gulf polities;

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. demonstrate an ability to analyse political factors and dynamics comparatively, drawing from broader concepts in comparative politics and democratisation;
  • 5. demonstrate an ability to draw on the wider area studies sources and literature relating to the Gulf region;

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. demonstrate skills of reasoned and supported argumentation in writing and in oral presentation;
  • 7. demonstrate skills of independent research and teamwork; and
  • 8. demonstrate skills of finding, analysing and synthesising information from a range of sources.

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

  • Introduction and module organisation; traditional socio-political characteristics and dynamics of the Gulf states.
  • The politics of oil and rent in the Gulf; historical review of political reform trends in the Gulf
  • Politics and Reform in Saudi Arabia
  • Politics and Reform in Kuwait
  • Politics and Reform in Bahrain
  • Politics and Reform in Oman
  • Politics and Reform in Qatar and the UAE
  • Politics and Reform in Iran
  • Politics and Reform in Iraq
  • Media, women and human rights in the Gulf
  • Conclusions: towards democratisation or liberalised autocracy?

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activity 13Lectures and convenor-facilitated discussions regarding materials covered in lecture
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activity 9Group presentations and class discussion regarding presentations
Guided Independent Study33Reading for class;
Guided Independent Study95Preparing for assignments through researching, planning and writing an essay.


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Class discussionWeekly, during lectures1-5, 7-8Direct feedback in seminar

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
2 group presentations5015-20 minutes each + 2 page document summarising main points1-8Written feedback
Essay502500 words1-5,7-8Written feedback


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Group presentationIndividual presentation to module convenor1-8August/September reassessment period
EssayEssay (2500 words)1-5, 7-8August/September reassessment period


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Aarts, Paul and Carolien Roelants. Saudi Arabia: Kingdom in Peril (London: Hurst, 2015).

Abrahamian, Ervand. A History of Modern Iran (Cambridge University Press, 2008)

Al-Rasheed, Madawi. A History of Saudi Arabia (Cambridge University Press, 2002; 2nd ed.: 2010).

Al-Rasheed, Madawi. A Most Masculine State. Gender, Politics and Religion in Saudi Arabia (Cambridge University Press, 2013).

Axworthy, Michael. Revolutionary Iran. A History of the Islamic Republic (London: Penguin, 2014).

Ayubi, Nazih. Over-stating the Arab State: politics and society in the Middle East(London: I.B. Tauris, 1995).

Beblawi, Hazem and Giacomo Luciani (eds.). The Rentier State (London: Croom Helm, 1987).

Crystal, Jill. Oil and Politics in the Gulf: Rulers and Merchants in Kuwait and Qatar (Cambridge University Press, 1995).

Davidson, Christopher (ed.). Power and Politics in the Persian Gulf Monarchies (London: Hurst, 2012).

Davidson, Christopher. After the Sheikhs. The Coming Collapse of the Gulf Monarchies (London: Hurst, 2012).

Dresch, Paul. Tribes, Government and History in Yemen (Oxford University Press, 1993).

Ehteshami, Anoushiravan & Steven Wright (eds.). Reform in the Middle East Oil Monarchies (Reading: Ithaca Press, 2008).

Gause, F. Gregory. Oil Monarchies: Domestic and Security Challenges in the Arab Gulf States (New York: Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1994).

Hanieh, Adam. Capitalism and Class in the Gulf Arab States (London: Palgrave McMillan, 2011).

Herb, Michael. All in the Family. Absolutism, Revolution and Democratic Prospects in the Middle Eastern Monarchies (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999).

Herb, Michael. The Wages of Oil. Parliaments and Economic Development in the UAE and Kuwait  (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2014).

Hertog, Steffen. Princes, Brokers, and Bureaucrats: Oil and the State in Saudi Arabia (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010).

Kamrava, Mehran. Qatar. Small States, Big Politics (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013).

Kapiszewski, Andrzej. Nationals and Expatriates: Population and Labour Dilemmas of the Gulf Cooperation Council States (Reading: Ithaca Press, 2001).

Khalaf, Abdulhadi, Omar Alshehabi and Adam Hanieh. Transit States. Labour, Migration and Citizenship in the Gulf (London: Pluto Press, 2014).

Kostiner, Joseph (ed.). Middle East Monarchies (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2000).

Lackner, Helen (ed.). Why Yemen Matters: A Society in Transition (London: Saqi, 2014).

Lacroix, Stephane. Awakening Islam. The Politics of Religious Dissent in Contemporary Saudi Arabia (Harvard University Press, 2011).

Matthiesen, Toby. Sectarian Gulf. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the Arab Spring that Wasn’t (Stanford University Press, 2013).

Menoret, Pascal. Joyriding in Riyadh. Oil, Urbanism and Road Revolt (Cambridge University Press, 2014).

al-Naqeeb, Khaldun. Society and State in the Gulf and Arab Peninsula(London: Routledge, 1990).

Niblock, Tim. Saudi Arabia: Power, Legitimacy and Survival (London: Routledge, 2006).

Shehabi, Ala’a and Marc O. Jones (eds). Bahrain’s Uprising: Resistance and Repression in the Gulf (London: Zed Books, 2016).

Stansfield, Gareth. Iraq: People, History, Politics (Oxford: Polity, 2007).

Teitelbaum, Joshua (ed.). Political Liberalization in the Persian Gulf (London: I.B. Tauris, 2009).

Tetreault, Mary-Ann. Stories of Democracy: Politics & Society in Contemporary Kuwait (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000).

Valeri, Marc. Oman: Politics and Society in the Qaboos State (London: Hurst, 2009).

Zahlan, Rosemarie S. The Making of the Modern Gulf States: Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman (Reading: Ithaca Press, 1998).

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Politics, reform, Gulf, Middle East, Iran, Arab Spring, globalisation, economy

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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