Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A New Blog on Bahraini Politics

I have finally succumbed to the pressures of 21st century expectations about media and publicity to begin this blog about Bahraini politics. But don't expect a twitter or facebook account -- really.

I have been driven by frustration to create this blog for a couple of reasons. The first of these is that it seems difficult to get an op-ed printed even if you have information unavailable elsewhere -- more of this in a bit -- when competing with the likes of such visionaries of Arab Gulf politics as, say, al-Waleed bin Talal bin Abd al-Aziz Al Sa'ud. (Seriously? A "plea for reform?" More like a care package to enable the Saudis -- and the Bahrainis and Kuwaitis and Omanis, who have announced the same thing -- to avoid reform. I'm sure the NYT is just waiting for their respective op-ed submissions.)

In any case, in early 2009 I conducted the first-ever national-level political survey of ordinary Bahraini citizens, interviewing (not myself) some 450 random households spread across the island. Now, the results of this survey form the basis of my dissertation on ethnic conflict -- read, Sunni-Shi'i rivalry -- and political mobilization in the Arab Gulf, and from an academic prospective the project is a success and the findings interesting. Yet the results of the survey also tell us something interesting and important about the current political deadlock in Bahrain, and so far -- as per the rant above -- it seems that these are seen as too "academic" to be useful in a political policy discussion such as current newspapers now cater to.

So I guess I've gone and done what everyone now seems to have hit on some time ago, namely that it's easiest simply to start shouting your opinions over the Internet until people are satisfied that you know what you're talking about, at which point you're invited to take part in the normal, somehow more serious discussion along with Prince Talal bin Abd al-Aziz et al. "The present age is an age of advertisement, an age of publicity," says Kierkegaard. So advertise and publicize is what we shall do.

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