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Workshop: State-Society Relations & Institutional Channels of Economic Reform in the GCC


November 9, 2021
12:00 pm - 2:15 pm




Gulf International Forum

Workshop Concept:

A primary developmental goal for Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries’ national visions is sustainable economic reforms through economic diversification. There is considerable debate on how Gulf rentier economies can diversify; why the resource curse results in various deterministic pathways of economic development; and how diversification can contribute to economic growth.

Yet, literature on the resource curse and rentier economies fails to sufficiently pinpoint the political forces and institutional ecosystems that affect the state’s autonomy to implement desired economic reform. This panel has been assembled to herald a new area of research on politics of economic reform in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries that engage in new areas of literature beyond the resource curse and rentier state literature.

Although contrary to the narrative advanced in classical rentier literature, GCC states vary in their capacity to implement economic reform. The development state literature defines state autonomy to conduct reform as “embedded in a concrete set of social ties that binds the state to society and provides institutionalized channels for the continual negotiation and renegotiation of goals and policies” (Evans, 1995, p.12). Evans (1995) discusses how the link between state autonomy and state-society relations can most effectively produce industrial transformations.

This panel will assess the implications of institutional ecosystems and state-society relations on the GCC’s economic reform agendas with attention to domestic politics, innovation, governance, inequality, and covid-19 austerity measures. It will also investigate comparative dimensions of the double segmentation of GCC labor markets, comparing them with insider-outsider structures. This includes the effect of elite politics on economic reforms.

Call for Papers:

Gulf International Forum is pleased to call for papers for “State-Society Relations & Institutional Channels of Economic Reform in the GCC,” a workshop hosted by GIF on Tuesday, November 9th, 2021 at 12 PM ET. Scholars who are interested in submitting a paper, please submit: (1) your resume, (2) a 400-words abstract of the paper, (3) contact information for at least two academic references (including a dissertation chair if you are a Ph.D. student). Limited spots for workshop participants are available. We are accepting abstracts on a rolling basis, apply today!

Paper structure and style: The papers should be academic research papers between 6,000 to 8,000 words. The abstract should consist of the following criteria:

  • Research Question – What is the importance of the topic?
  • Thesis Statement – What is the main argument of your paper?
  • Methodology – What models or approaches will be used in the larger study?
  • Results – What data indicates the outcome of the project?
  • Conclusion – How does this work add to the body of knowledge on the subject matter?
  • Recommendations – What changes should be implemented as a result of the overall findings?

Please submit your abstract to info@gulfif.org. The submission deadline is Friday, September 17, 2021. Papers submission deadline is October 26, 2021.

Workshop Participants: Dr. Dania Thafer, Dr. Justin Gengler, Dr. Gawdat Bahgat, Dr. Steffen Hertog, Dr. Martin Beck, and Dr. Thomas Richter.

Participants’ Bio:

Dr. Dania Thafer

Executive Director, Gulf International Forum


Dr. Dania Thafer is the Executive Director of Gulf International Forum. Her area of expertise is on the Gulf region’s geopolitics, US-Gulf relations, and the political economy of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states. She is also a Professorial Lecturer at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University.

Dr. Thafer been widely published on matters concerning the Arab Gulf states including several articles and publications. She has co-authored two edited books “The Arms Trade, Military Services and the Security Market in the Gulf States: Trends and Implications” and “The Dilemma of Security and Defense in the Gulf Region”. Dr. Thafer is currently writing a book focused on the effect of state-business relations on economic reform in the GCC states. Previously, she worked at the National Defense University’s Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies.

Dr. Thafer has a master’s degree in Political Economy from New York University, and PhD specialized in the Political Economy and International Relations of the GCC states from American University in Washington, DC.

Dr. Justin Gengler

Research Associate Professor, the Social and Economic Survey Research Institute (SESRI) at Qatar University


Dr. Gengler is a political scientist who studies political economy, political development, political behavior, public opinion, and survey methodology in the Middle East, especially the Arab Gulf states. He earned his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Michigan in 2011. He has recent or forthcoming publications in the British Journal of Political Science, Governance, Political Behavior, Middle East Journal, and Comparative Politics. He is the author of Group Conflict and Political Mobilization in Bahrain and the Arab Gulf: Rethinking the Rentier State (Indiana University Press, 2015). He is currently Research Associate Professor at the Social and Economic Survey Research Institute (SESRI) at Qatar University. In Fall 2020 he is also Visiting Associate Professor at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Qatar. Since 2006, he has lived and conducted fieldwork for a total of 12 years in Yemen, Bahrain, and Qatar.

Dr. Steffen Hertog

Associate Professor of Comparative Politics, The London School of Economics and Political Science.

Dr. Hertog research interests include Gulf politics, Middle East political economy, political violence and radicalization and he has published in journals such as World Politics, Review of International Political Economy, Comparative Studies in Society and History, European Journal of Sociology and International Journal of Middle East Studies. His book about Saudi state-building, “Princes, Brokers and Bureaucrats: Oil and State in Saudi Arabia” was published by Cornell University Press in 2011. He is the co-author, with Diego Gambetta, of “Engineers of Jihad: the Curious Connection between Violent Extremism and Education” (with Princeton University Press 2016).

Dr. Gawdat Bahgat

Professor, National Defense University; Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Gulf International Forum

Dr. Gawdat Bahgat is a professor at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University. He is the author of 11 books on the Middle East. His areas of expertise include energy security, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Iran and American foreign policy.

Dr. Martin Beck

University of Southern Denmark (SDU)

Martin is a professor of modern Middle East studies at the University of Southern  Denmark (SDU). His research covers international politics and political economy, in particular Middle Eastern power relations, the Arab–Israeli conflict, regional oil politics, and comparative analysis of rentier states. Martin has published in Global  Policy, Middle East Critique, the Journal of International Relations and Development,  Mediterranean Politics, European Foreign Affairs Review, Democracy and Security,  and the Journal of Refugee Studies, among others.

Dr. Thomas Richter

German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA)

Thomas is a senior research fellow at the German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA) in Hamburg, where he works at the GIGA Institute of Middle East Studies. His most recent research relates to structural adjustments and sectoral transformations in the Middle East after the oil price decline in 2014, shrinking civic spaces, and executive personalization during COVID-19. Thomas has for instance published in Review of International Political Economy, Democratization, the Journal of Arabian Studies and Global Policy.


*This event is not open to public


November 9, 2021
12:00 pm - 2:15 pm




Gulf International Forum
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