Bedouins into Bourgeois: Remaking Citizens for Globalization. 2017. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Reviewed by Madawi Al-Rasheed on the Middle East Centre Blog at the London School of Economics (LSE), and also in outlets such as the International Journal of Middle East Studies, Journal of Arabian Studies, and Mediterranean Politics.

Articles (Peer Reviewed)

“Reconsidering Tolerance: Insights from Political Theory.” Forthcoming in the British Journal of Political Science (with Teresa M. Bejan).

“What Do Classicists Think? Perspectives on Politics, Scholarship, and Disciplinary Crisis.” Forthcoming in TAPA (the flagship journal of the Society for Classical Studies, with Eric Adler).

"Adviser to the King: Experts, Rationalization, and Legitimacy." 2019. World Politics 71(1): 1-43.

Abstract: Do experts rationalize and legitimize authoritarian governance? Although research on expert actors in contexts of democracy and international governance is now extensive, scholarly work on their role in authoritarian settings remains limited. This article helps open the black box of authoritarian decision-making by investigating expert advisers in the Arab Gulf monarchies, where ruling elites have enlisted them from top global universities and consulting firms. Qualitative fieldwork combined with three experiments cast doubt on both the rationalization and legitimacy hypotheses and also generated new insights surrounding unintended consequences. On rationalization, the evidence suggests that experts contribute to perverse cycles of overconfidence among authoritarian ruling elites, thereby enabling a belief in state-building shortcuts. On legitimacy, the experiments demonstrate a backfire effect, with experts reducing public support for reform. The article makes theoretical contributions by suggesting important and heretofore unrecognized conflicts and trade-offs across experts’ potential for rationalizing vis-à-vis legitimizing.

"It's the End of the World and They Know It: How Dystopian Fiction Shapes Political Attitudes." 2018. Perspectives on Politics 16(4): 969-989 (with Celia Paris).

Abstract: Given that the fictional narratives found in novels, movies, and television shows enjoy wide public consumption, memorably convey information, minimize counter-arguing, and often emphasize politically-relevant themes, we argue that greater scholarly attention must be paid to theorizing and measuring how fiction affects political attitudes. We argue for a genre-based approach for studying fiction effects, and apply it to the popular dystopian genre. Results across three experiments are striking: we find consistent evidence that dystopian narratives enhance the willingness to justify radical—especially violent—forms of political action. Yet we find no evidence for the conventional wisdom that they reduce political trust and efficacy, illustrating that fiction’s effects may not be what they seem and underscoring the need for political scientists to take fiction seriously.

"New Approaches to Citizen-Building: Shifting Needs, Goals, and Outcomes." 2018. Comparative Political Studies 51(2): 165-196.

Abstract: New approaches to citizen-building are flourishing, yet theoretical tools are lacking and empirical research is limited. This article contributes in several ways. Theoretically, it offers a reconceptualization of the traditional “making of citizens” framework, aiming to adapt it to contemporary needs and concerns. Empirically, it offers an examination of the content of civics curricula as well as original data on the outcomes of an ambitious state-led social engineering campaign in the United Arab Emirates, where leaders seek to build more “globalization-ready” citizens—more entrepreneurial, market friendly, patriotic, and civic minded, yet still loyal to the regime. Using a difference-in-differences framework, I find evidence that social engineering is succeeding in some respects but backfiring in others, giving rise to citizens not only more patriotic but also more entitled—in other words, entitled patriots. Findings contribute to knowledge of state-led social engineering and citizen-building in the contemporary era.

"Seeing Like an Autocrat: Liberal Social Engineering in an Illiberal State." 2015. Perspectives on Politics 13(1): 24-41.

First article, and featured on cover of March 2015 issue.

Abstract: Recent studies of autocratic liberalization adopt a rationalist approach in which autocrats’ motives and styles of reasoning are imputed or deduced. By contrast, I investigate these empirically. I focus on liberal social engineering in the Persian Gulf, where authoritarian state efforts to shape citizen hearts and minds conform incongruously to liberal ideals of character. To explain this important but under-studied variant on autocratic liberalization, I present evidence from rare palace ethnography in the United Arab Emirates, including analysis of the jokes and stories ruling elites tell behind closed doors and regular interviews with a ruling monarch. I find that autocrats’ deeply personal experiences in the West as young men and women supplied them with stylized ideas about how modern, productive peoples ought to act and how their own cultures underperform. The evidence also reveals that such experiences can influence autocrats, even years later, leading them to trust in Western-style liberal social engineering as the way forward, despite the risks. Ethnographic findings challenge the contemporary scholarly stereotype of the autocrat as super-rational being narrowly focused on political survival, illustrating how memory and emotion can also serve as important influences over reasoning and drive liberal change.

"Exploring the Microfoundations of International Community: Toward a Theory of Enlightened Nationalism." 2014. International Studies Quarterly 58(4): 682-705.

Abstract: This paper challenges conventional wisdom about the drivers of international community at the individual level. Presenting new data and a novel natural experiment approach to the study of cross-border contact and international community, it tests some of the key microfoundations of international relations theory about how a sense of shared international community may arise and evolve at the individual level. The hypotheses are tested using survey data from a large sample (n = 571) of American study abroad students in a range of universities across a treatment and a control group. Surprisingly, findings do not support the main hypothesis that cross-border contact fosters a sense of shared international community. However, the second hypothesis drawn from the liberal paradigm is supported: individual perceptions of threat diminish significantly as a result of cross-border contact. The “Huntingtonian” hypothesis that cross-border contact heightens nationalism also garners wide support. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications for theory and future research, especially the potential of rethinking the drivers of international community at the individual level to rely less on a sense of shared identity and essential sameness, and more on a feeling of “enlightened nationalism” and appreciation for difference.

"Assessing the Dangers of Illicit Networks: Why al-Qaida May Be Less Dangerous Than Many Think." 2008. International Security 33(2): 7-44 (with Mette Eilstrup-Sangiovanni).

Cited in the New Yorker (Gladwell, Malcolm. 2010. "Annals of Innovation: Small Change." New Yorker, October 4: 42-45) and selected for reprint in Lynn-Jones, Sean M. Responding to Terrorism: A Batch from International Security (MIT Press, 2014), a specially curated collection of influential papers dealing with terrorism including papers by Audrey Kurth Cronin, Andrew Kydd, Max Abrahms, John Mueller, and Jenna Jordan.

Abstract: Theoretical work on networked organization informs a large swathe of the current literature on international organized crime and terrorism in the field of international relations. Clandestine networks are portrayed as large, fluid, mobile, highly adaptable, and resilient. Many analysts have concluded that this makes them difficult for more stable, hierarchical states to combat. The prevailing mood of pessimism about the ability of states to combat illicit networks, however, may be premature. International relations scholars working in the area have often been too quick to draw parallels to the world of the firm, where networked organization has proven well adapted to the fast-moving global marketplace. They have consequently overlooked not only issues of community and trust but also problems of distance, coordination, and security, which may pose serious organizational difficulties for networks in general and for illicit networks in particular. Closer attention to a wider body of historical and contemporary research on dynamics of participation in underground movements, the life cycle of terrorism and insurgency, and vulnerabilities in organized crime reveals that clandestine networks are often not as adaptable or resilient as they are made out to be. An analysis of the al-Qaida network suggests that as al-Qaida adopts a more networked organization, it becomes exposed to a gamut of organizational dilemmas that threatens to reduce its unity, cohesion, and ability to act collectively.

"Intelligence Reform: The Logic of Information Sharing." 2007. Intelligence and National Security 22(3): 384-401.

Abstract: A cornerstone of U.S. intelligence reform is 'information sharing' as a means of adapting to contemporary security challenges. It was a central recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, reflected in the wide-ranging 'Information Sharing Environment' mandated by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. Yet the underlying logic of information sharing for intelligence reform has received little attention. Drawing on information and communications theory, this paper critiques the logic by highlighting problems of sense-making and interpretation overlooked amid the scholarly enthusiasm for an intelligence 'culture of sharing.' With their impersonal, technical, and highly bureaucratic approach, today's reforms may favor the flow of information and its sheer volume at the expense of the context and analytic tradecraft that render it meaningful, actionable intelligence. To support meaningful information sharing, the paper suggests reformers pay more attention to the socio-technical environment of analysis when interpreting ambiguous, uncertain information.

"Al Qaeda’s Innovative Improvisers: Learning in a Diffuse Transnational Network." 2006. Cambridge Review of International Affairs 19(4): 555-569.

Abstract: Al-Qaeda is commonly described as a highly flexible and adaptable non-state network, making it difficult for states to combat. Although these features are associated with networks in theory, they are not inherent to networks in practice, and rely largely on organisational learning. A network that fails to learn is not likely to adapt successfully. This paper explores the learning implications of al-Qaeda's transnational network structure, focusing on decentralisation and reduced hierarchical control following the loss of its Afghanistan base. Drawing from organisational theory research, the paper uses an exploration–exploitation framework to offer hypotheses about how learning is evolving. It suggests a wider space for exploration, rendering a dispersed, decentralised al-Qaeda more innovative, balanced by a weakened ability to exploit resources and expertise. Networked al-Qaeda militants are described as ‘innovative improvisers’ with high creative potential but low professionalism. By delving into the mechanisms of learning, the paper builds knowledge of what specific circumstances affect al-Qaeda's purported agility as an actor. Further research is recommended on how states might respond to innovative improvisers. Such research should extend beyond popular proposals for ‘networked’ national security to innovation and learning in their own right.

"Open Source Disaster Recovery: Case Studies of Networked Collaboration." 2006. First Monday 11(5) (with Sarai Mitnick).

Cited in Science (Shneiderman, Ben and Jennifer Preece. 2007. “,” Science 315, February 16).

Abstract: Volunteers eager to help disaster victims have begun to draw on open source models of organization to mobilize and coordinate vast resources from around the world. This paper investigates two such groundbreaking efforts, involving responses to Hurricane Katrina and to the South East Asian tsunami. The study sheds light on how these organizations evolve so rapidly, how leaders emerge and confront challenges, and how interactions with traditional, more hierarchical disaster recovery efforts unfold. Lessons from these early efforts show how they can be improved, and also point to the need for more research on networked non–state actors that are playing increasingly prominent roles.

Additional Publications

“All the King’s Consultants: The Perils of Advising Authoritarians.” 2019. Foreign Affairs (invited article, May/June issue in print).

“What Happens When Consultants Work for Authoritarian Regimes.” 2019. Harvard Business Review (invited digital article).

“Fictional Dystopias and Real-World Politics,” Aeon (invited article, forthcoming).

"Social Engineering in Rentier States." 2019. The Politics of Rentier States in the Gulf: POMEPS Studies Series 33. Project on Middle East Political Science, George Washington University.

“Dystopian fiction makes people more willing to justify political violence. Should you worry?” 2019. Washington Post: Monkey Cage, January 12.

“There’s a frenzy of consultants in the Persian Gulf. Sometimes they do more harm than good.” 2019. Washington Post, Op-Ed Section, January 11.

"Can Saudi Arabia's crown prince remake his people?" 2017. Washington Post, Outlook Section, B1. December 3.

Review of Bernard Haykel, Thomas Hegghammer, and Stéphane Lacroix, Saudi Arabia in Transition: Insights on Social, Political, Economic and Religious Change (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press). 2016. Perspectives on Politics 14(1): 251-252.

"The Surprising Effects of Study Abroad." 2015. Washington Post: Monkey Cage, August 20.

"To Cheat or Not to Cheat: Evidence on Ethical Decision-Making From a Study of Arab Youth." 2015. Sheikh Saud bin Saqr al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research, UAE, Working Paper No. 11.

Review of Amaney A. Jamal, Of Empires and Citizens: Pro-American Democracy or No Democracy at All? (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press). 2012. The Middle East Journal. 67(2): 326-328.

"A Horse of a Different Color: Exploring Classic Questions in New Ways." 2012. Newsletter of the American Political Science Association, Organized Section for Qualitative and Multi-Method Research (QMMR) 10(1): 31-36.

"Economic, Social, and Political Attitudes in the UAE: A Comparison of Emirati and Non-Emirati Youth in Ras Al Khaimah." 2011. Sheikh Saud bin Saqr al Qasimim Foundation for Policy Research, UAE, Working Paper No. 01.

"Exploiting Structural Weaknesses in Terrorist Networks: Information Blitzkrieg and Related Strategies." 2009. In Ideas as Weapons: Influence and Perception in Modern Warfare, ed. G.J. David, Jr. and T.R. McKeldin III. Washington, DC: Potomac Books.

"Networks Unleashed: Mobile Communications and the Evolution of Networked Organizations." 2007. In Displacing Place: Mobile Communication in the Twenty-First Century, ed. Sharon Kleinman. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing (with Patricia Wallace).