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‘Writing’ small states: contextualizing the construct in the Arab Gulf

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journal contribution
posted on 2022-11-22, 21:17 authored by Larbi Sadiki, Layla Saleh

How do IR scholars ‘write’ the Arab Gulf? In attempting to address this question, the focus is twofold: first, the ‘small state’ as a construct and second, its application to the study of Gulf small states. The article tries to grapple with issues inherent in such an enterprise by providing a critical assessment of recent scholarship on the topic, with special reference to Qatar and the UAE. The problematic comes to the fore in a context of these two countries’ increasing regional and international visibility, as well as what seems to be renewed scholarly interest in small states, more generally. Specifically, this analysis primarily seeks to relativize the small state within the Arab Gulf sub-region, drawing attention to ontological and epistemological issues. In so doing, the article offers some heuristics for the writing of small states in the Arab Gulf. One suggestion put forward in the article is more scrutiny of the regional context; what is called here the ‘hydrocarbon semi-periphery’; and misgivings (conceptual and empirical) concerning, respectively, the treatment of ‘soft power,’ mediation, and intervention. One parting idea to derive from this line of inquiry is its cautionary note against inflating the utility or the explanatory power of a catch-all ‘small state’ construct when it comes to non-Western settings.

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Published in: International Politics
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  • English


Springer Science and Business Media LLC

Publication Year

  • 2021

Institution affiliated with

  • Qatar University

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