current research

Bedouins into Bourgeois: Remaking Citizens for Globalization (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017)). 

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The “making of citizens” is a classic challenge, but also an evolving one, and we know little about how states are attempting to cultivate citizens in the current globalized market era—what I call the making of citizens, 2.0.  That gap in our knowledge provides the primary rationale for this book.  In it, I take a multi-method approach to explore how state leaders are adapting their citizen-building strategies to contemporary global realities, and what outcomes they are achieving—both intended and unintended.  Like the nineteenth century Parisian elites in Eugen Weber’s Peasants into Frenchman, who sought to create loyal French citizens out of peasants, ruling elites in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) hope to convert their citizens—many of Bedouin descent—into entrepreneurial bourgeois, without altering the political status quo.  In the Middle East, such efforts to build a “new Arab citizen” who is better equipped to compete in market economiesand, so the thinking goes, less susceptible to radicalismhave been widely heralded as a way forward for the troubled region.

The book first situates contemporary challenges within the broader literature on citizen-building and nationalism, and then turns to the origins, goals, and outcomes of state-led social engineering in the UAE.  Ruling elites are emphasizing education reform, symbolism, and spectacleamong other time-honored methods of state-led social engineeringto promote what they see as an enlightenment and knowledge renaissance in the Arab world, while attempting to direct citizens toward ideals of liberalism, neoliberalism, and authoritarianism.  What are the outcomes of such “pro-globalization” and “pro-market” social engineering?  Are elites succeeding in instilling achievement-oriented mindsets in citizens, promoting interest in entrepreneurship and private-sector work, fostering civility and civic-mindedness, and reducing reliance on state jobs and other forms of government largesse?   Why or why not?  To answer these questions, I use a variety of methods ranging from palace ethnography to difference-in-difference survey designs and randomized experiments, building knowledge about how states try to cultivate more development-friendly cultures, and why some strategies are more successful than others. The final chapters examine the reasons for outcomes and their generalizability to other contexts.  I also investigate social engineering alternatives that reframe nationalism to better prepare and motivate citizens for a global market era, and consider the deeper question of citizen-building in “imperfect” political contexts. 

Chapter Outline


Chapter 1.    Rethinking the Making of Citizens

Chapter 2.    Seeing Like a Sheikh

Chapter 3.    Enlightenment under Autocracy

Chapter 4.    Symbolism, Spectacle, and the Shaping of the Post-Petroleum Citizen 

Chapter 5.    From Enlightenment to Entitlement: Intended and Unintended Outcomes of Social Engineering

Chapter 6.    Nationalism as Self-Esteem Building: Explaining the Paradox of the Entitled Patriot

Chapter 7.    Motivating Citizens and the Future of Nationalism