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31st Exeter Gulf Conference: Zones of Theory in the Study of Yemen

An Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies conference
Date1 - 2 July 2019
TimeEvent spans several days
PlaceIAIS Building/LT1

LT1 and LT2

Programme now available below.

As we enter the fourth decade of the Exeter Gulf Conferences, we return for the third time to Yemen, this time to reflect on the state of the academic field.

In recent decades, scholarly work on Yemen has focused so intensely on particular traits and characteristics of the country that these have become all-encompassing analytics, or what Lila Abu-Lughod (1989) terms “zones of theory”. Once a metonym for tribalism, Yemen is now a metonym for insecurity and a privileged zone of theorising for security, policy and strategy studies. Considering the tragedy of the current war and humanitarian crisis, it would appear unproblematic, even commendable, to think of Yemen as a site of absent security. Yet, at the same time, this framing of the country is not particular to the current crisis. Over the last two decades, specialists in the field have written about how Yemen has teetered on the “brink of chaos”. For many, the current situation is validation of this prophecy.

This conference invites participants to reflect on what is overlooked by thinking of Yemen solely in terms of insecurity and to consider such questions as:

  • How can we re-engage the scholarly diversity of Yemen studies in times of war and revolution? What should this re-engagement look like?
  • Should scholarly work on Yemen have a commitment to “the good”? What is the line between academic research and development - humanitarian, political or otherwise? What does it mean to be ‘critical’?
  • How does the current situation relate to larger ethical debates concerning, for instance, the Anthropocene and dwindling resources or the global refugee or financial crisis?
  • Is it possible, considering fieldwork constraints imposed by the conflict, to revive ethnographic exploration into the diversity of values, experiences and life-worlds
  • To what extent has scholarly work on Yemen privileged, wittingly or unwittingly, certain actors, political groups or subject matter over others?
  • What is the relationship between (in)security discourses and projects of securitisation? To what extent is this field of study gender biased?
  • What do we miss by focussing so much of our analytical labour on the manoeuvrings and machinations of a political elite? How is ‘the political’ defined and demarcated in writings both about the war in Yemen?
  • How should we think about political authority, governance and the state? Instead of thinking solely about how people in Yemen ought to be governed, is there space to think about what James Scott calls the “art of not being governed”?
  • How does the eclipse of the state affect expressions of resistance, resilience, and the cultivation of new solidarities? How does this impact gender roles and identities?
  • How have collective representations and national imaginaries been shaped and reshaped through heritage industries and the significant loss of material culture?

For more information, see the call for papers below.

ProviderInstitute of Arab and Islamic Studies
Intended audienceOpen to everyone
2019_Gulf_Conference_programme.pdfGulf Conference programme 2019 (765K)
CallforPapers_2019.pdfCall for Papers (72K)

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