Articles (Peer Reviewed)

"New Approaches to Citizen-Building: Shifting Needs, Goals, and Outcomes," Comparative Political Studies, published online Feb. 1, 2017, doi:

: 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." Perspectives on Politics 13(1): 24-41, 2015. Link to article

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." International Studies Quarterly  58(4): 682, 705, 2014. Full text PDF

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." International Security. 2008. 33(2): 7-44. (with Mette Eilstrup-Sangiovanni). Full text PDF 

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. Full text PDF

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. Full text PDF

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 215, 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.

Invited Publications and Book Chapters

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). Perspectives on Politics, 14(1): 2016.

“The Surprising Effects of Study Abroad.” Washington Post: Monkey Cage, available at  August 20, 2015.

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

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

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

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

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

"Networks Unleashed: Mobile Communications and the Evolution of Networked Organizations." In Displacing Place: Mobile Communication in the 21sts Century, ed. Sharon Kleinman. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing, 2007 (with Patricia Wallace).  Link to book

Conference Papers and Presentations

“Gender Segregation as Social Engineering: Exploring the Civic Costs in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.” Invited presentation at the Comparative Politics Colloquium, UC-Berkeley, March 2, 2017.

“Building Citizens for Globalization: Evidence from the UAE.” Invited presentation at the Queen Rania Foundation for Education and Development, Amman, Jordan, November 6, 2016.

“Doing the Right Thing: Gender and Ethical Decision-Making in Kuwait.” Paper selected for presentation at the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) Annual Meeting, Boston, MA, November 18, 2016.

“Reconsidering Tolerance: Theory and Practice for the 21st Century.” Paper selected for presentation at the American Political Science Association (APSA) Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, September 2, 2016 (with Teresa Bejan).

“The Challenge of Being Good: Youth and Ethical Decision-Making in the UAE.”  Invited presentation at the Gulf Comparative Education Society (GCES) Annual Symposium, Kuwait City, Kuwait, April 7, 2016.

“Disruptive Effects of Fiction: Dystopian Narratives and Political Attitudes.” Comparative Politics Workshop, University of Maryland-College Park, February 10, 2016.

“It’s the End of the World and They Know It: How Dystopian Fiction Shapes Political Attitudes.”  Paper selected for presentation at the Southern Political Science Association Annual Meeting, San Juan, Puerto Rico, January 9, 2016.

“Outsourcing the State: The Expert-Ruler Nexus and Implications for Governance in the Arab Gulf.”  Invited presentation at the Georgetown University Comparative Politics Workshop, Washington, DC, December 7, 2015.

“Does Diversity Influence Ethical Decision-Making? Experimental Evidence from Middle Eastern Youth.”  Paper selected for presentation at the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) Annual Meeting, Denver, CO, November 24, 2015.

“It’s the End of the World and They Know It: Effects of Dystopian Pop Culture on Youth Political Attitudes.”  Paper selected for presentation at the New England Political Science Association (NEPSA) Annual Meeting, New Haven, CT, April 24, 2015 (with Celia Paris).

“Outsourcing the Nation: Networks of Foreign Experts in the Arabian Peninsula.” Paper selected for presentation at the American Political Science Association (APSA) Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, August 30, 2014.

“Outsourcing the Nation: The Uncertain Role of Foreign Experts in Nation-Building in the Persian Gulf.”  Paper selected for presentation at the Annual Association for the Study of Nationalities (ASN) World Convention, New York, NY, April 25, 2014.

“Learning to Lead? Praise, Intrinsic Motivation, and Citizen Entitlement.” Paper selected for presentation at the Gulf Comparative Education Society (GCES) Annual Symposium, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, April 9, 2014.

"Innovators…for the Nation? Hazards of Using Nationalism to Motivate Entrepreneurship." Paper selected for presentation at the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) Annual Meeting, New Orleans, LA, October 12, 2013.

“Creating the New Capitalist Man: Intended and Unintended Outcomes of Social Engineering in the United Arab Emirates.” Paper selected for presentation at the American Political Science Association (APSA) Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL, September 1, 2013.

"Representation Without Taxation: The King's Dilemma 2.0." Paper selected for presentation at the American Political Science Association (APSA) Annual Meeting, New Orleans, LA, August 29-September 2, 2012. Link to paper (Conference cancelled due to hurricane)

"Building Citizens by Decree: The Effects of a Public School Reform on Citizen Evolution in the United Arab Emirates." Paper selected for presentation at the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) Annual Conference. San Juan, Puerto Rico, April 26, 2012. Full text pdf
"From Subjects to Citizens? Rights, Obligations, and the New Politics of Citizenship in the Arab Gulf." Paper selected for presentation at the American Political Science Association (APSA) Annual Meeting, Seattle, WA, September 2, 2011. Link to paper

"The New Rentier Citizen: Political Attitudes and the Evolving Social Contract in the UAE." Paper selected for presentation at the Gulf Research Meeting (GRE), University of Cambridge, UK, July 8, 2011. Full text pdf

"Understanding Economic and Civic Culture in the UAE: A Comparison of Emirati and Non-Emirati Student Attitudes in Ras al Khaimah." Paper selected for presentation at the Gulf Comparative Education Society (GCES) Annual Symposium, Ras al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates, March 16, 2011. Link to presentation

"Dilemmas of Dark Networks: Why a Networked Structure May Fail to Empower Illicit Actors." Paper selected for presentation at the International Studies Association (ISA) Annual Convention, New York City, NY, February 15, 2009 (with Mette Eilstrup-Sangiovanni). Link to paper

"Online Impression Management: Case Studies of Activist Web Sites and their Credibility Enhancing Tactics during the Kosovo War." Paper selected for presentation at the Oxford Internet Institute (OII), University of Oxford, UK, September 10, 2005.  Full text pdf