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Call For Papers: Knowledge-Based Development in the Gulf (Kuwait, March 2015)

Knowledge-Based Development in the Gulf

Call for Papers

Kuwait, 13-15 March 2015

Deadline: 15 October 2014 

The Center for Gulf Studies at the American University of Kuwait will hold its second Gulf Studies Symposium (GSS) on 13-15 March 2015. The GSS is a meeting of worldwide Gulf scholars and researchers held biennially in Kuwait. Each symposium is based on a particular scholarly theme that is timely both to the region and to the field of Gulf studies. The theme of the 2015 GSS is “Knowledge-Based Development in the Gulf.”  

Arab Gulf states increasingly utilize the phrase “knowledge economy” in their development strategies. Policy reports and national strategic plans emphasize the need to move away from natural resource dependency towards “knowledge-based” development, where knowledge, skills, and innovation supposedly drive economic success and competitive advantage. To this end, significant investment in higher education has become a principal strategy across the GCC states. However, what exactly constitutes “knowledge economy” is not always clear, and there is limited research about the on-the-ground negotiations, experiences, challenges, successes, and failures that go into this form of development. For example, while numerous branch campuses of prestigious Western universities and/or local universities built on Western (mainly American) higher education models have been established over the past decade, they are not uniform in their effects, nor do we know much about the diverse experiences faculty, students, and staff have at these institutions. Building a knowledge economy has also become a major component of urban development, with the construction of enormous university campuses and other educational and research spaces. How these new forms of built environment impact urban life is also understudied. While the higher education sector has been promoted as the keystone of Gulf knowledge economies, fewer resources have been invested in improving the state of national school systems at the primary and secondary levels, in preparing Gulf nationals to attend Western-style colleges and universities, or in promoting local research capacity to replace the overreliance on international consultants in fields like urban planning, environmental protection, and healthcare, among others. Furthermore, although previously sidelined groups like youth and women have become the focus of many knowledge economy goals, others like Bedouin, Shi‘a, the bidūn (stateless), and particularly non-nationals remain marginalized in national development across the region.  


The 2015 GSS will bring together international and regional scholars conducting original research on these issues to engage in an interdisciplinary discussion on knowledge-based development in the Gulf. We particularly encourage scholars who utilize qualitative methods in studying knowledge economies, and we are especially interested in including scholars who work within the Gulf and use their own first-hand participation in the region’s knowledge economy to carry out their research. 


The main themes we would like to explore during this symposium include:

•    The nation-state’s relationship to education development

•    Gendered realities in education, employment, and research

•    On-the-ground experiences of particular social groups in knowledge-based development

•    Knowledge economies in/and the built environment

•    The impact of Western expertise and ideologies on higher education

•    The branch campus experience

•    Language and identity in Western higher education

•    Teaching the liberal arts in the Gulf

Papers on topics not listed above will also be considered provided they contribute to the overall objectives of the symposium. Pre-arranged panels consisting of three to five papers may be proposed, but papers will be considered individually.

Roundtable Discussions:

All conference participants may take part in the following roundtable discussions:

•    American Higher Education in the Gulf, focusing on the first-hand experiences of scholars and students who teach and study in the region’s branch campuses or American-styled universities. Topics of discussion include pedagogy, student engagement, academic freedom, campus life, and the role of liberal arts.

•    The State of Scholarly Research in the Gulf, focusing on the everyday experienes of researchers currently working within the region. Topics of discussion include access to funding, the state of resources like libraries, archives, and labs, censorship, and the competition between international consultants and local talent (citizens and expatriates alike).

If you are interested in being a discussion lead on one of these topics, please submit an abstract as per the instructions below indicating your own expertise in and/or research on the topic.


Submissions should be sent by E-mail to Farah Al-Nakib ( and Micheline Zouein ( by 15 October 2014. Please include your name, professional title, and institutional affiliation in the body, and attach your paper title and 400-word abstract as a Word document. Abstracts should relate to the general symposium theme and give some indication of sources, discipline, and methodology. Papers are reviewed blindly by a selection committee. 

15 October 2014: Deadline for submissions

1 November 2014: Notification of accepted submissions

10 November 2014: Confirmation of participation

1 March 2015: Submission of full paper for circulation

12 March 2015: Arrival in Kuwait

13-15 March 2015: Symposium

16 March 2015: Departure from Kuwai


The CGS will cover the cost of airfare to and accommodation in Kuwait.


[Special thanks to Dr. Neha Vora (Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Lafayette College) for her valuable contribution to the 2015 GSS theme.]

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