Politics and Reform in the Gulf

Module titlePolitics and Reform in the Gulf
Module codeARA3163
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Dr Marc Valeri (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module will introduce you to critically exploring the dynamics of politics and reform of the Gulf states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Iraq and Iran). The module is structured around case studies of key countries. It particularly considers 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. locate, appraise and use the main sources of information and data relating to the politics of the states of the Arabian Peninsula and Iran;
  • 2. demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the main issues in the politics of the Gulf monarchies, Yemen and Iran;
  • 3. demonstrate an in-depth understanding of different analytical approaches towards the study of the political systems of the region, and a capacity 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. comparatively analyse political factors and dynamics to draw from broader concepts in comparative politics and democratization;
  • 5. 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.
  • 9. demonstrate skills of using and appraising knowledge, theory and methodology in a critical, evaluative, analytical and exploratory way.

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, the syllabus will cover all of the following topics:

  • Pre-oil 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
  • Politics and reform in the UAE
  • Politics and reform in Iran
  • Politics and reform in Yemen
  • 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, 7-9Direct 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
Essay502500 words1-9Written feedback
Group presentation 12520 minutes + 2 page document summarising main points1-9Direct feedback in seminar and written feedback
Group presentation 22520 minutes + 2 page document summarising main points1-9Direct feedback in seminar and written feedback


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay (2,500 words)1-9August/September reassessment period
Group presentation 1Individual presentation to module convenor1-9August/September reassessment period
Group presentation 2Individual presentation to module convenor1-9August/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).

Beaugrand, Claire. Stateless in the Gulf: Migration, Nationality and Society in Kuwait (London: I. B. Tauris, 2017).

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

Coates Ulrichsen, Kristian (ed.). The Changing Security Dynamics of the Persian Gulf (London: Hurst, 2017).

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).

Freer, Courtney. Rentier Islamism. The Influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Gulf Monarchies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018).

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).

Hanieh, A. Money, Markets and Monarchies. The Gulf Cooperation Council and the Political Economy of the Contemporary Middle East (Cambridge University Press, 2018)

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).

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).

Valeri, Marc. Oman: Politics and Society in the Qaboos State (London: Hurst, updated revised ed., 2017).

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

The Middle East and North Africa 2019 (London: Routledge, 2018, 65th edition): chapters on Bahrain, Kuwait, Iran, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Yemen. This reference work, providing an account of the political histories of these states (as well as lots of information on the economy, and directories of political parties, media organisations, etc., plus a bibliography on each of these states) is available at the Library.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

  • Gulf States Newsletter (GSN) and the Economist Intelligence Unit’s reports on the Gulf states, electronically;
  • The International Crisis Group’s reports at www.crisisgroup.org;
  • Human Rights Watch (Middle East) produces good reports on the Gulf states: http://www.hrw.org/en/middle-east/n-africa
  • Middle East Economic Digest (MEED) (weekly)

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Politics, reform, Gulf, MiddleEast, Iran, ArabSpring, globalisation

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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