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Sectarian Gulf: Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the Arab Spring That Wasn't (Stanford Briefs) Paperback – 30 Jul 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press (30 July 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804785732
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804785730
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.8 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 316,151 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Providing an unbiased analysis of how the Arab Spring transformed politics-as-usual in the Gulf, Toby Matthiesen has given us an invaluable contribution to the discussion of the grassroots revolutionary movements that have swept the region. His insight on the rise of politically-driven sectarianism is critical to our understanding of the chief drivers of conflict in the Middle East today. --Joost Hiltermann, International Crisis Group

The same abuses of power that provoked uprisings across the Arab world have driven protests in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in recent years. Toby Matthiesen offers an admirably clear and dispassionate account of how, as in Syria, these regimes have used a sectarian framing to strengthen their own efforts at counter-revolution. --Charles Tripp, School of Oriental and African Studies

Sectarian Gulf is an excellent and timely account of the challenges facing the Persian Gulf today. A must read for anyone interested in understanding the region and the forces that are pulling it apart. --Toby C. Jones, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, author of Desert Kingdom: How Oil and Water Forged Modern Saudi Arabia

About the Author

Toby Matthiesen is a Research Fellow in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Pembroke College, University of Cambridge. He has published in The New York Review of Books, The Guardian, Foreign Policy, Middle East Journal, and Middle East Report, and has done extensive fieldwork in the Middle East during the Arab Spring. He previously worked as a Gulf Consultant for the International Crisis Group.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By CALLUM A LANE on 8 Jan. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
This book is a good primer for domestic politics in the Gulf. It is however overly focused in Bahrain and Kuwait, probably due to better research possibilities there. The books biggest failing is that at times it becomes a polemic and is written from a very subjective liberal Western point of view.
Easy reading, a good primer, but not seminal.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4 reviews
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A Relevant Introduction 1 Mar. 2015
By Nada Faris - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
For a Middle Easterner or anyone already familiar with how the GCC does politics in our region of the world, the book simply reiterates common knowledge. Sectarian Gulf states that the Arab Spring resurrected three visible threats to the Middle East’s ancien régimes. The first is the “Shia threat,” encapsulated by Iran’s looming presence and aggressive vociferation. The GCC countries are all governed by Sunni ruling families, and any Iranian interference in the region threatens old hierarchies in favor of Islamic states that follow the Shia sect.

However, in addition to the fear of growing Shia sentiment, the GCC’s royal families also worry that the Sunni Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, which regained its intensity after winning elections in Egypt and Tunisia, might also destabilize the region’s power structures. Hence, Sunni Islamism has become just as much a paramount threat to the status quo as Shia Islamism.

Finally, the GCC regimes have had to contend with a third, even more dangerous threat: people power, which succeeded in toppling dictators in various other Arab countries. To prevent “the people”—the secular majority who view themselves as disenfranchised by current political systems—from uniting against the Gulf monarchies, the GCC’s royal elite hired sectarian identity entrepreneurs to help this group maintain its dominance. “[S]ectarianism,” writes Matthiesen, “was not just a government intervention but the result of an amalgam of political, religious, social and economic elites who all used sectarianism to further their own aim” (p. ix).

Overall, while Sectarian Gulf is merely an introductory account of the GCC’s political reaction to the Arab Spring, it remains highly relevant. This book illustrates how post-Arab Spring sectarianism is a particular strategy to divide “the people” and ward off the threat of serious, structural reforms.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Deep, in-depth tale of the Persian Gulf 26 April 2014
By Ryan Terry Bohl - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Everything you never knew you wanted to know about the Gulf, with the ins and outs of key players, written well and with obvious local perspective.
2 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Interesting and different perspective on events and players in the Gulf region 23 Aug. 2013
By Stephen H. Franke - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Interesting and different perspective on events and players in the Gulf region.

Have some substantial differences with the author's viewpoints on events in Bahrain, based on long-time experience and residence in Saudi Arabia and some related periods in Bahrain on programs for HRD and industrial training (I've been a "Gulfie" area specialist in various capacities since the mid-1970s).

I've read better, and I've read worse. While I have no regrets about buying and reading this book, I would recommend some other materials instead as "read ahead to get smart quick" references to Americans heading to the "upper Gulf" region (including Saudi Arabia).
0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5 out of 5 6 Aug. 2014
By baqer m alnemer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
i really like the book and wish to have the Arabic education
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