Jun
26

Claim No Easy Victories

Given how little is available about or on Cabral, the edited collection by Firoze Manji and Bill Fletcher Jr (2013) is a welcome addition. The book is titled "Claim No Easy Victories: The Legacy of Amilcar Cabral", with 38 chapters and seven sections (many chapters are brief), including a chapter by the late Samir Amin. In the notes below I focus on Cabral more than the commentaries and reflections offered in the book.

"To understand the role of culture as a fundamental part of the resistance of the oppressed, it is important to analyse it in relation to the different social categories present at any given time in the society concerned - culture, not as an abstract receptacle, but as a dynamic synthesis of the historical reality (material and spiritual) of a human group at any given time. In Cabral's words: 'Culture, whatever its ideological or idealistic characteristics may be, is an essential part of the historical process. It has the capacity (or responsibility) to develop and nourish those elements that will ensure the continuity of history and at the same time determine how society will progress or regress.'" (p. 70)

"[Cabral:] 'The return to the roots is not and cannot itself signify an act of struggle against foreign domination (colonialist/racist) but neither does it mean a return to tradition. It is a practical response to a concrete and historical need that results from the implacable contradiction between a colonized or (neocolonial) society and the colonial power, between the exploited masses and the foreign classes.' For him the "return to the roots" phenomenon can only be realized if the African petit bourgeoisie get directly involved in the daily struggle of the popular masses. As he said, "the masses reject both the domination of foreign culture and foreign exploitation. The cultural struggle, therefore, also has to be political, with the aim of creating an environment conducive to the free cultural expression of the oppressed. This can only be possible if the people retake control of their own development." (p. 71)

[Cabral] "Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for things in anyone's head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children... We do not fall back on cliches or merely harp on the struggle against imperialism and colonialism in theoretical terms, but rather we point out concrete things... Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell them no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, or failures. Claim no easy victories..." (p. 109)

"One of the most important points Cabral consistently made is the need for vigorous and bold reappraisal and assessment of the strengths of both the philosophy and political praxis of modern social movements: [Cabral] 'We base our struggle on the concrete realities of our country. We appreciate the experiences and achievements of other peoples and we study them. But revolution or national liberation is like a dress which must fit to each individual's body. Naturally, there are certain general or universal laws, even scientific laws, for any condition, but the liberation struggle has to be developed according to the specific conditions of each country'." (p. 129)

[Cabral] "I vow that I shall give my life, all my energy, all my courage, all the ability that I have as a man to the service of my people in Guinea and Cape Verde until the day I die. I shall make my contribution, as far as possible, to the service of humanity, for the improvement in the lives of people in the world. This is my task." (p. 217)

"Cabral was very exercised by the matter of culture. Colonialism did a lot of damage to the culture of the colonised. Indeed, part of the strategy of the coloniser to ensure the subjugation of the colonised was to deny the humanity of the latter. And given that one of the singular manifestations of our humanity is the culture that we create and transmit through successive generations to our progeny, it is obvious that to deny our humanity is to deny that Africans have any legacy of monuments, ideological and physical institutions, processes and practices that can justifiably be regarded as our contribution to the world's summit of civilization. To our colonisers, our music was noise, our dance was obscenity, our religion was fetish, we did not have literature, philosophy was beyond our ken, and, most of all, we were a people without history." (p. 355-356)

"We can all use a reminder of this dimension of Cabral's humanism. [Cabral] 'We talk a lot about Africa, but we in our Party must remember that before being Africans we are men, human beings, who belong to the world. We cannot therefore allow any interest of our people to be restricted or thwarted because of our condition as Africans. We must put the interests of our people higher, in the context of the interests of mankind in general, and then we can put them in the context of the interests of Africa in general.'" (p. 358)

Jun
21

Moving the Centre: The Struggle for Cultural Freedoms

Ngugi wa Thiongo is a giant in the decolonization community, in 1986 he wrote Decolonizing the Mind, he also wrote Theory and the Politics of Knowing, Secure the Base, Something Torn and New, amongst many others (including a list of fiction works). This post shares some notes from his 1993 book Moving the Centre: The Struggle for Cultural Freedoms. Several notes from this excellent book:

"I am concerned with moving the centre in two senses at least. One is the need to move the centre from its assumed location in the West to a multiplicity of spheres in all the cultures of the world... The second sense is even more important although it is not explored extensively in these essays. Within nearly all nations today the centre is located in the dominant social stratum, a male bourgeois minority. But since many of the male bourgeois minorities in the world are still dominated by the West we are talking about the domination of the world, including the West, by a Eurocentric bourgeois, male and racial minority. Hence the need to move the centre from all minority class establishments within nations to the real creative centres among the working people in condition of gender, racial and religious equality." (p. xvi-xvii)

"The political struggles to move the centre, the vast decolonisation process changing the political map of the post-war world, had also a radicalising effect in the West particularly among the young and this was best symbolised by the support the Vietnamese struggle was enjoying among the youth of the sixties. This radical tradition had in turn an impact on the African students at Leeds making them look even more critically at the content rather than the form of the decolonisation process... In the area of culture, the struggle to move the centre was reflected in the tri-continental literature of Asia, Africa and South America. It was more dramatic in the case of Africa and the Caribbean countries where the post-war world saw a new literature in English and French consolidating itself into a tradition." (p. 3)

"Hegelian Africa was a European myth. The literature was challenging the Eurocentric basis of the vision of other worlds even when this was of writers who were not necessarily in agreement with what Europe was doing to the rest of the world. It was not a question of substituting one centre for the other. The problem arose only when people tried to use the vision from any one centre and generalise it as the universal reality." (p. 4)

"I have noted from a spell of teaching in the USA that Third World literatures tend to be treated as something outside the mainstream. Many epithets and labels ranging from 'ethnic studies' to 'minority discourses' are often used to legitimate their claims to academic attention.. It is therefore not really a question of studying that which is removed from ourselves wherever we are located in the twentieth century but rather one of understanding all the voices coming from what is essentially a plurality of centres all over the world." (p. 10-11)

"The wealth of a common global culture will then be expressed in the particularities of our different languages and cultures very much like a universal garden of many-coloured flowers. The 'flowerness' of the different flowers is expressed in their very diversity. But there is cross-fertilisation between them. And what is more they all contain in themselves the seeds of a new tomorrow." (p. 24)

"Scandinavians know English. But they do not learn English in order for it to become the means of communication among themselves in their own countries, or for it to become the carrier of their own national cultures, or for it to become the means by which foreign culture is imposed on them. They learn English to help them in their interactions with English people, or with speakers of English, to facilitate commerce, trade, tourism, and other links with foreign nations. For them English is only a means of communication with the outside world. The Japanese, the West Germans, and a good number of other peoples fall in the same category as the Scandinavians: English is not a substitute for their own languages." (p. 30-31)

"The encounter between English and most so-called Third World languages did not occur under conditions of independence and equality. English, French, and Portuguese came to the Third World to announce the arrival of the Bible and the sword. They came clamouring for gold, black gold-in chains, or gold that shines as sweat in factories and plantations. If it was the gun which made possible the mining of this gold and which effected the political captivity of their owners, it was language which held captive their cultures, their values, and hence their minds. The latter was attempted in two ways, both of which are part of the same process. The first was to suppress the languages of the captive nations. The culture and the history carried by these languages were thereby thrown onto the rubbish heap and left there to perish. These languages were experienced as incomprehensible noise from the dark Tower of Babel. In the secondary school that I went to in Kenya, one of the hymns we were taught to sing was a desperate cry for deliverance from that darkness. Every morning, after we paraded our physical cleanliness for inspection in front of the Union Jack, the whole school would troop down to the chapel to sing: `Lead kindly light amidst the encircling gloom, lead thou me on.' Our languages were part of that gloom. Our languages were suppressed so that we, the captives, would not have our own mirrors in which to observe ourselves and our enemies. The second mode of captivation was that of elevating the language of the conqueror. It became the language of the elect. Those inducted into the school system, after having been sifted from the masses of the people, were furnished with new mirrors in which to see themselves and their people as well as those who had provided the new mirrors. In short, they were given a language called English or French or Portuguese. Thus equipped with the linguistic means of escape from the dark Tower of Babel, the newly ordained, or those ready to be ordained as servants of the new order, had their minds systematically removed from the world and the history carried by their original languages. They looked, or were made to look, to a distant neon light on a faraway hill flashing out the word EUROPE. Henceforth Europe and its languages would be the centre of the universe." (p. 31-32)

"Fortunately things will never go the way intended by the oppressor for the simple reason that the dominated have always resisted and will always resist. In fact imperialism would never have taken so much trouble to invest so heavily in its repressive machinery or in cultural engineering if the exploited and the oppressed had themselves merely succumbed to their economic fate of fforever being the unquestioning drawers and hewers of wood" (p. 54)

"Culture carries the values, ethical, moral and aesthetic by which people conceptualise or see themselves and their place in history and the universe. These values are the basis of a society's consciousness and outlook, the whole area of a society's make-up, its identity. A sense of belonging, a sense of identity is part of our psychological survival. Colonialism through racism tried to turn us into societies without heads. Racism, whose highest institutionalised form is apartheid, is not an accident. It is an ideology of control through divide and rule, obscurantism, a weakening of resistance through a weakening of a sense of who we are. Thus psychological survival is necessary. We need values that do not distort our identity, our conception of our rightful place in history, in the universe of the natural and human." (p. 77) 

Jun
16

China's Gilded Age

China's Gilded Age (2020) by Yuen Yuen Ang is an accessible read that is well worth reading for multiple reasons. The book advances theoretical understandings on corruption and poverty, it presents creative methodologies that could inspire all sorts of new research, and presents unique findings that explain how China sustained high levels of economic growth alongside pervasive corruption. Ang also wrote the excellent book How China Escaped the Poverty Trap (2016).

A few notes (three long quotes, key arguments from the book):

"The durability and gigantic scale of Chinese economic expansion, juxtaposed with reports of "rising"and "explosive"corruption, cannot simply be brushed away by assertions of imminent collapse, even amid the current slowdown. How China has come this far –from an impoverished communist regime to a capitalist superpower rivaling the United States, despite a crisis of corruption that its leadership sees as "grave"and "shocking"–must be explained. This is the task of my book." (p. 5)

"Through an "unbundled"approach, my study draws a clear distinction between the quantity and quality of corruption. Wealthy economies may have low quantities of aggregate corruption, as measured by standard cross-national indices, but it doesn't mean that they have no corruption; rather, their corruption may be of a different quality –concentrated in access money, which is difficult to capture and not immediately growth-retarding. Contrary to popular beliefs, the rise of capitalism was not accompanied by the eradication of corruption, but rather by the evolution of the quality of corruption from thuggery and theft toward sophisticated exchanges of power and profit. Compared with countries that prospered earlier, China is still a relative newcomer on this evolutionary path... Why has China prospered alongside vast corruption? I offer a four-part explanation. First, the dominant type of corruption in China is access money –elite exchanges of power and wealth –rather than petty bribery or outright theft... access money may actually raise private investment –and even spur over-investment, as seen in China's real estate sector –thereby increasing growth, at least until the onset of a crisis." (p. 14)

"One of the most intractable problems of development is the trap of "corruption-causing-poverty-causing-corruption." In other words, countries are poor because they are corrupt, and they are corrupt because they are poor... The scholarly literature poses two solutions to this problem. The first is to "skip straight to Weber" by replicating the best practices of first-world public administration in developing countries. Pay is too low? Raise it. Bureaucracy is overstaffed? Slash it. Petty corruption is rampant? Vow to punish it. Although these measures appear correct in principle, in practice they routinely fail and may even backfire, raising administrative costs and undermining public sector morale. The second solution, as Fisman and Golden underscore, is to "trigger a change in social norms." Social norms are important, and muck-raking journalism and public protests can help citizens hold corrupt elites accountable. But norms cannot fill empty stomachs. Poorly paid bureaucrats often steal, extort, or moonlight in order to subsist. Reform-era China charted an unusual pathway out of this vicious cycle. Its solution was to allow street-level bureaucrats to extract some payments to top up their paltry formal salaries, while also aligning their financial incentives with long-term economic development objectives. Essentially, the state applied a profit-sharing model to the communist bureaucracy." (p. 85-86) 


Jun
11

Ebola and the Ravages of History

In Paul Farmer style, "Fevers, Feuds, and Diamonds: Ebola and the Ravages of History" (2020) weaves together personal encounters with life histories, colonial histories, and public health. This is well worth the read - all 653 pages of it. When I picked up this book, we got the unfortunate news of the passing of Dr Farmer. For those unaware of his works, do seek them out, such as Infections and Inequalities (1999), Pathologies of Power (2005), and Partner to the Poor (2010), amongst many others.

A few notes (particularly in knowledge production and dissemination):

  • "good news from the United States and Europe [that Ebola was treatable] seemed to make little difference to patients in West African ETUs, who were being provided with the bare minimum - right then and there, only cups of ORS, which many were unable to keep down. Most were dying." (p. XV)
  • "It's hard to fault beleaguered West African health professionals for missing these cues. Few - even those who'd helped conduct these studies - had access to the expensive scientific journals in which these surveys were published. Nor had local facilities been left with improved lab capacity for diagnosing the varied causes of febrile illness after expatriate researchers returned to Europe." (p. 15)
  • "Radio spots, commissioned songs, and billboards showcased a confusing set of troubling, punitive, or contradictory messages and commands: Ebola is real, not caused by witchcraft or curses. It kills 90 percent of those afflicted. Don't eat bushmeat. Don't eat bats. Don't eat plums (which few West Africans seemed to fancy) gnawed on by bats. Don't play with or eat baboons (a species absent from the region in which the spillover event was held to occur) or monkeys of any sort. Don't touch your sick or bury your dead, or you'll be punished. Don't shake hands. Don't touch anyone at all, ever. Stay at home, or shelter in place. Go to a hospital. Don't go to a hospital, as there's no known treatment for Ebola. Go to an isolation center. Isolate yourself if you can't get to one of those because of travel bans. Practice social distancing." (p. 20)
  • "One study put the number at more than 8 percent. That meant that the virus wasn't only present in eastern Sierra Leone; it wasn't rare. These findings had been presented in scientific meetings and in a manuscript submitted for publication in an academic journal months before Patient Zero fell ill. Improbably, the article was rejected, with at least one reviewer arguing he just didn't believe Ebola occurred in West Africa. It didn't appear in print until shortly before the Kenema facility's director and many of his nursing colleagues were dead of Ebola." (p. 25)
  • "I've claimed in this book that epidemic disease rarely collided with modern medicine within Upper West Africa, in spite of superpower promises of development assistance to attain whatever happened to be defined at any given moment as modernity. This general rule held true during the Cold War, a feud during which the body count was high only in former colonies. Until the advent of cell phones, collisions with material modernity in Upper West Africa were more likely to consist of encounters with the machinery of mechanized extraction of mineral wealth—or with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades—than with Xray or surgical suites, or modern laboratories." (p. 339) 
Jan
24

Qatar: Political, Economic and Social Issues

Haitham M. Alkhateeb published "Qatar: Political, Economic and Social Issues" (I published a similar book with the same publisher, in the same year, on Ethiopia). Unfortunately this publisher charges an unacceptably high rate for books (both this book and the one I edited sell for US$230), which makes them largely inaccessible to most readers. I was fortunate to come across this book recently, via one of the contributing authors. I am glad I did, as there are some gems in this book. Notably, almost all authors are based in Qatar (or nearby, in UAE or Oman), only the editor is based outside of the region (in the US).

With 20 chapters, I won't go into the details, other than primarily share what is in the book and some of its highlights / unique contributions. The chapters are not grouped under sections; as far as I read this collection there are two main groups of chapters (the blockade of Qatar and education) and a range of additional chapters. On the blockade, Chapters 2 through 6 (all written by Paula Marie Young from the College of Law at Qatar University) cover different aspects of the blockade of Qatar (a strength of these chapters is the legal basis they reside in, and their extensive referencing). These could be read alongside the book that Ulrichsen wrote on the topic (published in 2020).

The contributions relating to education are a unique addition for a generally under-researched area in Qatar (not all are formal education, but I am grouping them under a broad umbrella). Ramzi Nasser et al cover the attestation of online education programs (and the need for a policy, or a revision of policy, continues making this still relevant despite all the changes the pandemic brought about). Chapter 13 raises the question if Qatar needs a language policy, written by the editor of the book. Chapter 14, written by Aaron LaDuke, covers developments in Qatari literature. Ramzi Nasser also wrote Chapter 15, on the educational reforms that have taken place in Qatar, which goes alongside Chapter 16, on the same subject, by Weber and Kronfol (which are good reads alongside the excellent chapter written by Lolwah alKhater on the same topic, published in 2016). The editor contributes Chapter 17 on attitudes toward Arabic as a language of instruction (specifically for math and science) as well as Chapter 20 on university student study skills in Qatar. Chapter 18 covers the education role of museums, broadly and in Qatar, by Mariam Ibrahim al-Hammadi.

The third grouping of chapters are less connected. Chapter 1, by Nawaf al-Tamimi and Azzam Amin, covers nation branding (economic, media, humanitarian, education, cultural, sport, tourism) as a key aspect of strengthening soft power. Tarek Ben Hasen covers the transition to a knowledge-based economy in Chapter 7. Chapter 8 covers the water-energy nexus, by Ammar Abulibdeh, which is an excellent summative chapter on the issues (particularly useful for teaching or getting a summary of the nexus in the context of Qatar). Chapter 9 by Esmat Zaidan and Ammar Abulibdeh covers the role of place and culture / identity in urban development / planning. Chapter 10 by Susan Dun covers the divides of citizen and non-citizen in the context of FIFA and domestic interest to attend; given the demand for tickets that was recently registered, I think this chapter would be written in a different way today (assuming limited interest and half empty stadiums). Chapter 11 shares coins held by the Qatar Museums Authority, found at al Zubarah. Chapter 19, by Ziad Kronfol et al, takes a mental health perspective on the challenges youth face in Qatar 

Jan
18

The Creation of Qatar

The classic history of Qatar was written by Rosemarie Said Zahlan in 1979, titled The Creation of Qatar. The author is the sister of Edward Said (yes, the Edward Said), and she also wrote a history of the UAE (in 1978) and the region (in 1998). Zahlan's book is a reference / source book for almost all other histories of the country. Given its date of publication, its strength is offering more detailed perspectives of a different era, as history was viewed in the post-independence period and providing details of that time period itself. Somewhat surprisingly, given its centrality, the book is lightly cited in many chapters, leaving authors having to guess where all the detailed historical recounting is sourced from. As an example, for Chapter 2 on the period of 1766-1820 there are only 11 footnotes, several of which are explanatory notes and do not contain references to sources. What footnotes we have suggest that the sources are primarily from the British colonial record, and some other English sources, such as from Aramco, along with a few Arabic sources.

The focus of this history is from 1766 onward, with chapters respectively covering the eras of 1766-1820, 1820-1913, 1872-1916, post-1916, 1935 and oil, there is also a chapter on territorial disputes and chapters on socio-cultural topics. All of the chapters are quite brief (the entire book is 160 pages). For historical books on Qatar that followed it, Zahlan's work is focal, and continues to be a key reference point (however the book written by Crystal in 1990 is the most cited). This history, like that of Al-Shelek et al, places more emphasis on Qatar's internal history, than an (over)emphasis on the external as well as colonial actions and roles. The social chapters are probably the most valuable contributions, such as Zahlan's demographic data showing that the foreign population of Qatar was 39% in 1939 and 59% in 1971 as well as the 1970 Qatari population at 45,000 (well cited tables list all the available sources on population; this a unique source on an issue about which there is limited data). There is a detailed table on education (students, teachers, school), which is another great source for documents that are currently difficult to find.

Zahlan has a concluding chapter on the future of Qatar. While it is not predictive, the author suggests that hydrocarbons will remain focal to the economy up to 2000 and beyond, giving the nation and its people the potential for prosperity. Zahlan notes investment in education as well as giving girls and women opportunities (in education and work) as key pathways for economic and social development. The author also highlights that the necessity of positive regional partnership will continue given that she predicts that the country will not not be able to be self sufficient in many regards. One of the challenges Zahlan raised in 1979 was being able to fuse innovation and technology with national heritage, which remains an on-going one. 

Jan
13

Qatar's Modern and Contemporary Development

One of the benefits of being in Qatar, when reading books written on the country, is the ability to walk the shelves of the Qatar National Library and stumble upon gems that almost certainly would not be available outside of Qatar. One example of this is "Qatar's Modern and Contemporary Development: Chapters of Political, Social and Economic Development", published in 2015, in Doha, Qatar. This book was written by Prof Ahmed Zakariya Al-Shelek, Prof Mustafa Oqail Mahmoud, and Dr. Yusuf Ibrahim Al- Abdulla (I believe it was originally written in Arabic but I do not have the date of that publication).

While other histories offer details of events in relation to external and colonial actions, the strength of this book is the extensive reference to local developments (e.g. related to the changes in the governance system, the consideration of a regional union when approaching independence, relations with other intergovernmental organizations like the Arab League and the UN, etc). In many ways this is much more of a history of Qatar, as opposed to other histories which situate Qatar as subject to the actions of others and their history. Entire chapters take this local focus. For example, Chapter 5 covers the Beginnings of the Modern State and is a valuable reference as it lists the emergence of various government offices, laws (e.g. nationality laws), Islamic courts, and so forth. Chapter 7 covers the political history of oil, putting it in local and international context, and Chapter 8 analyzes some of the socio-cultural impacts of oil. These histories are not included in most texts, and makes this a particularly valuable contribution.

Although not a strong focus, relatively more attention is paid in this book to the history before the colonial period as well as the role of Islam (the latter is made invisible in many works on the country). When the colonial era is covered, readers learn more of the Ottoman role in the 1800s, in comparison to other histories that emphasize that of the British. Also unlike almost all books on the country (including those published by academic presses) this book uniquely has a chapter on methods and sources, which is appreciated. This methods chapter outlines the inclusion of Arabic sources, Turkish sources, colonial sources, amongst others (including Russian sources). For this interested in the history of Qatar, this is worthwhile read.

Jan
08

The Emergence of Qatar

Of all the potential topics covered in books about Qatar, history takes a prominent role. One of these books is Habibur Rahman's "The Emergence of Qatar: The Turbulent Years 1627-1916", which was first published in 2005. At the time of its first publication, this book was one of the few histories of Qatar (after Zahlan's 1979 book and Crystal's 1990 book). The book is framed around the European engagement with Qatar, starting with the Portuguese in 1627 (there is only 1 page to the history pre-dating European engagements; notably, this is not a history of external actors of the era, as the Ottomans arrived in the region in 1541 but are not taking as a starting point). This gives the book, as many have done, a colonial framing that gives the greatest agency to external actors, and thereby emphasizes the colonial entities, which is reinforced by primarily referring to colonial historical sources. The result has the potential to be a history written with a strong colonial gaze (as many histories of the countries have done). However, according to the Routledge re-publication of the book in 2010, the author had a career with the Historical Documents and Research Division of the National Council for Culture, Arts and Heritage, a part of the Government of Qatar. This gives the book some unique perspectives, as well as access to some unique perspectives and more first hand experiences. This has the potential to shift whose perspective is represented. For example, other histories do not note that when the Portuguese arrived along the coast of Qatar they set fire to Qatari villages during the years of 1627 and 1628 (page 16). However, more could have been made of alternative sources of history, such as oral history and the book reads as though the author relied largely on the English historical record, and because of that largely the British (and less of the Arabic and Turkish).

This book is relatively well cited and for anyone interested in the history of Qatar this is certainly a book to consult. Rahman's work is well organized; in addition to chronology the chapters that take a thematic focus, such as on Bahrain, the Ottomans, several on the British. Much of the source material (largely the colonial record) is cited in full, which is useful for seeing source texts, as opposed to having this summarized and interpreted (and there is an extensive set of appendices). Connecting this history to works that focus on the modern era, such as that of Kamrava (2013), one could see a much deeper history of hedging as a political approach as well as regional leadership via mediation, although I leave this to the historians to explore. 

Dec
29

Classifications of Nations

In 1068 Said al Andalusi wrote Kitaab Tabaqaat al 'Umam, which was translated as "Book of the Categories of Nations", which the translators of the 1991 version should be better translated as "Classifications of Nations" but kept with the norms of titling for this work. The book is a sort of reference for scholars, publications, and scientific advancements amongst nations, as they were in the 11th century. Its usefulness today, other than being a central work of the time period, is historical reference.

One contextual notes made by the editors and translators (Sema'an Salem and Alok Kumar) is that at the time of Said al Andalusi one of the signs of prestige and power for kings and rulers was the number of quality of scholars attracted to their courts. About scholarship itself, like other great scholars (who often held multiple positions in society, such as judges) Said al Andalusi sponsored students to study and develop advanced knowledge of the sciences. Two traditions that would be worthy of revival. 

Nov
16

Qatar: Politics and the Challenges of Development

In the same year that Kamrava published his book on Qatar, Matthew Gray published Qatar: Politics and the Challenges of Development (2013). Kamrava's book has about three times as many citations and seems to have become the go-to book on political issues in Qatar for the time period. Kamrava took a position at Georgetown University in Qatar in 2007, and has been there since, giving him a depth of experience and insight that many others do not have. When I picked up Gray's book, and read that it was based upon three short visits to Qatar in 2011 and 2012, I was skeptical. Maybe it is a disciplinary or training difference, but I struggle to see how I could write a book with such limited contextual experience. Nonetheless, Gray's book is a really good resource, contains lots of data (which is often challenging to find in one place), it is well organized and structured. Some parts could have done with more references, allowing us readers to know where the information was obtained - for example the historical chapter gives many details that must have been sourced somewhere, but we are not told where (and a heavy reliance upon one source, in that chapter Crystal's work). As with many other works written by 'outsider' academics, no Arabic sources are used. While the author speaks of interviews and cites interviewees, we know little to nothing about who they are, how representative that data is, how many interviews are used, how the data was analyzed in order to draw conclusions, et cetera. This presents a significant methodological weakness. Nonetheless, this is a good resource for students, albeit slightly dated now, but for the period before 2012, this is worth reading.

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