Contested Modernity

Lineages of Nationalism, Sectarianism, and Absolutism in Bahrain and the Gulf

May 28, 2019
6:00 pm-7:30 pm | London

Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations

A discussion on Omar AlShehbi’s new book, Contested Modernity: Lineages of Nationalism, Sectarianism, and Absolutism in Bahrain and the Gulf  on Tuesday 28 May 2019. 

Omar will be joined by Professor Stephen Lyon, AKU-ISMC’s Head of Educational Programmes, and Toby Dodge, Kuwait Professor and Director of the Kuwait Programme, Middle East Centre.

Discussions of the Gulf States increasingly focus on sectarianism and autocratic rule. These features are often attributed to the dominance of monarchs, Islamists, oil, and ‘ancient hatreds’. To understand their rise, however, one has to turn to a largely forgotten but decisive episode with far-reaching repercussions – Bahrain under British colonial rule in the early twentieth century.

Drawing on a previously unexamined Arabic literature as well as British archives, Omar AlShehabi argues that sectarianism emerged as a modern phenomenon in Bahrain during this period. It also heralded the birth of absolutist rule in the Gulf, under the tutelage of the British Raj, to counter nationalist and anti-colonial movements tied to the al-Nahda renaissance in the wider Arab world. 

Omar AlShehabi is the Director of the Gulf Centre for Development Policies, and Associate Professor in Political Economy at the Gulf University for Science and Technology (GUST) in Kuwait. He has previously worked at the IMF, the World Bank, McKinsey, and taught at University College, Oxford. Prior to that he obtained a BA in PPE and an M.Phil and D.Phil. in Economics at Pembroke College, Oxford. His upcoming book in English: Contested Modernity: Sectarianism, Nationalism, and Colonialism in Bahrain, will be released in April 2019 from OneWorld Publications.

Stephen Lyon is Professor of Anthropology and the Head of Educational Programmes at AKU-ISMC in London. Before joining AKU-ISMC, he was Professor of Anthropology at Durham University, UK. He has carried out field research in rural and urban Pakistan for more than 20 years and among Pakistani diaspora populations in Britain, Greece and Japan. He has published widely on conflict management, kinship, agriculture and social networks.

Toby Dodge is Kuwait Professor and Director of the Kuwait Programme, Middle East Centre. He is also Professor in the Department of International Relations. Toby currently serves as Iraq Research Director for the DFID-funded Conflict Research Programme (CRP). In 2013–18, Toby was Director of the Middle East Centre. Toby's research concentrates on the evolution of the post-colonial state in the international system. The main focus of this work on the developing world is the state in the Middle East, specifically Iraq.

This event is free but booking is essential. Book as soon as possible.


Room 215, 2nd floor,
Aga Khan Centre,
10 Handyside Street,
London N1C 4DN