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About Center for Gulf Studies
Our Views on the Gulf
We view the Gulf first and foremost as a body of water that for centuries has connected the people living along and across the Arab and Persian littorals with each other and with the wider world. The Gulf region in its broadest sense therefore includes the Gulf Cooperation Council member states (Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Saudi Arabia) as well as Iran, Iraq, and Yemen. We take a transnational approach to understanding this integrated region by situating and analyzing its historical and contemporary relevance within a broader regional context (both Arab and Indian Ocean) and from a global perspective.

It is surprising that scholarly research on the Gulf is relatively scarce, considering that the region is and has historically been one of the most strategically important parts of the world. For the past half century the Gulf has been the world's largest single source of crude oil, while also being the site of three major wars in as many decades. But the Gulf is about so much more than just oil, war, and security.

For centuries before the coming of oil the Gulf was intrinsically linked to the vital and vibrant Indian Ocean trading network and was therefore part of what Neville Chittick has called the world's "largest cultural continuum." As a frontier society situated at the crossroads of major trading emporia (both then and now), and that once stood at the periphery of some of the world's largest empires, the Gulf has always had international significance. This reality only increased with the advent of oil in the mid-20th century, after which the region launched the most comprehensive urban development and social welfare schemes the world has ever seen. Alongside the ongoing importance of its vast hydrocarbon reserves, the Gulf's global role continues to grow in the 21st century with the transformation of the former port towns of the Arab littoral into global financial centers and major tourist hubs.

The Gulf today is a place of myriad contradictions, and is confronted by numerous challenges: the dichotomous pull of globalization and religious extremism, the requirement for greater environmental sustainability as well as economic diversification, the pressing need to improve both its human rights records and its educational systems, and calls for greater and more equal political participation in the face of a changing Arab world. There has therefore never been a more critical time for discussion, debate, and dialogue about this socially and politically complex and rapidly developing part of the world.

Scholars are becoming increasingly aware of the historic and global significance of this multifaceted region, and the field of Gulf Studies has consequently expanded considerably in recent years. The outpouring of new research in the arts, humanities, and social sciences is resulting in an ever-growing emergence of Gulf-focused specialists, workshops, conferences, projects, programs, and associations around the world. Few of these research initiatives, however, are being established within the Gulf region itself. AUK's Center for Gulf Studies is therefore in a unique position to not only actively participate in this rising scholarly endeavor, but to take a regional lead in laying the foundations of this up-and-coming academic field.

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American University of Kuwait
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