CIRS Attends Middle East Studies Association (MESA) Conference

CIRS Attends Middle East Studies Association (MESA) Conference

Mehran Kamrava, Director of CIRS, delivered a paper presentation titled “Qatari Foreign Policy and the Exercise of Subtle Power” as part of a panel on “Impact of the 2010-12 Uprisings on International Relations in the Middle East, Part I” on October 11, 2013. 

The paper examined the ways in which Qatar is exercising a new form of power that does not conform to our traditional ‎conceptions of “soft,” “hard,” or “smart” power. This new, composite form of power, ‎can be best described as “subtle power”. Qatari foreign policy is comprised of four ‎primary components. These include hedging, military security and protection, ‎branding and hyperactive diplomacy, and international investments. Whereas most ‎other Arab states of the Persian Gulf have adopted bandwagoning as their preferred ‎foreign policy approach, Qatar has opted for hedging by placing a big bet one way—‎positioning itself under the American security umbrella—while placing a number of ‎smaller bets the other way—as in maintaining warm relations with Iran and Hamas. ‎This has enabled the country to maintain open lines of communications with multiple ‎actors, thus uniquely positioning it the crosscurrents of global and especially regional ‎developments. Military security and protection, guaranteed by the United States, has ‎enabled the state to maintain an extremely active diplomatic profile and to engage in ‎risky ventures it would otherwise have abstained from, as in the Libyan and Syrian ‎uprisings, which have only enhanced Qatar’s carefully crafted image as an active ‎member of the international community. Also supporting this image, backed up by an ‎aggressive global branding campaign, have been Qatari mediation efforts as well as ‎the expansive activities and influence of Al Jazeera television channel. Inordinate ‎financial resources have meanwhile turned Qatar into an aggressive global investor ‎both in East Asia and in Western Europe. Combined, these four foreign policy ‎components have bestowed Qatar with a level of power and influence that is far ‎beyond its status as a small state and a newcomer to regional and global politics. This ‎type of power is neither rooted in the attraction of norms (soft power) nor in military ‎ability (hard power). It consists of a form of often behind-the-scenes agenda setting ‎that may best be described as subtle power.‎

Mehran Kamrava also chaired a panel on “Impact of the 2010-12 Uprisings on International Relations in the Middle East, Part II” on October 11, 2013.

Dwaa Osman, Research Analyst at CIRS, delivered a paper titled “Agency of the Socially Excluded: Women in Pakistan and Sudan” as part of the “Women’s Political Agency” Panel on October 13, 2013.

Within the greater Middle East, Pakistan and Sudan are two states whose chronic political instability has had significant consequences for the well-being of its citizens, particularly for marginalized groups such as women. While women encounter socio-economic and political disadvantages globally, within weaker states their levels of exclusion are heightened. Inadequate policies and institutions along with exclusionary socio-cultural contexts mean that women face both material and non-material disadvantages. This paper explores the ramifications of poor governance for the inclusion of women in society.

While the fragile political and security makeup of the countries has increasingly placed women at the margins of society, women working in informal rural economies have proven to be critical to the survival of their families, as they serve the dual role of primary domestic care-takers and providers of income. Operating in the periphery, rural women working in informal economies are at the bottom level of the labor markets as they face gendered, social, and economic vulnerability. The social exclusion of women working in these economies posits the need for comprehensive assistance that enhances their employability while taking into account the gendered power relations existing within society. Non-governmental organizations play an important role in this regard, as they fill the gap of the state by facilitating access to vital resources and networks. This paper assesses the services provided by NGOs in the rural areas of Pakistan and Sudan and their attempt to overcome the challenges of exclusion faced by rural women. The productive and reproductive skills offered by these organizations, are incorporated into the coping strategies of women to fulfill their multiple and multi-dimensional roles in society. The way in which women utilize these skills is an indication of their active participation in their own social inclusion and their ability to navigate the power structures that exclude them. This paper will examine the impact of NGO programs dedicated to the enhanced participation and integration of women in society, to assess whether this translates into greater agency in different spaces, and how it dually impacts gender disparity within their homes and communities.

Zahra Babar, Assistant Director for Research at CIRS, delivered a paper titled “Negotiating the Alien Arab: Labor Mobility in the State of Qatar” as part of a panel on “Arab Gulf Migration: Practices, Data and Policies,” on October 11, 2013.

Although much recent scholarship has focused attention on the conditions of non-Arab migrants to the Persian Gulf, the study of Arab migrants to the region has been neglected for several decades. This paper addresses an important gap in the literature on labor migration by focusing on migrant Arab workers in the State of Qatar. The paper examines the evolution and transformation of migration patterns to the country, assesses polices adopted by the state to control the flow of foreigners, and argues that these policies have been an integral part of more general processes of political and economic change in the country. During her panel presentation Babar shared current data on current Arab expatriates in Qatar by nationality and labor force participation. Her preliminary research suggests that there are far fewer Arab expatriates in Qatar than previous sources have stated, and that Arabs are integrated in the workforce in a dissimilar pattern to Asians.

In addition, CIRS held an exhibition booth at the MESA Book Bazaar. CIRS staff met with conference participants and other interested scholars to discuss ongoing and future research initiatives related to the Gulf region and the Middle East. Participants were welcome to free CIRS publications and research materials.