Policing and Prisons in the Middle East

Formations of Coercion

Edited by

Laleh Khalili


Jillian Schwedler

‘Theoretically informed, critical and empirically rich, this book succeeds in throwing light into dark corners and shows the cruelty and inhumanity that lurk behind institutions that many take for granted.’ – Professor Charles Tripp, SOAS

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Policing and Prisons in the Middle East Hardback
September 2010£50.00
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September 2010£25.00
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The emergence of the modern Middle East has been accompanied by a concentration of coercive power in the state. Although the region has encompassed numerous Mukhabarat (secret police) states, extensive policing and carceral regimes, and widespread use of torture and spectacular punishments, and although its prisons and policing practices are regularly condemned by human rights organisations, surprisingly few analyses explore the emergence of these grim institutions.

This volume is the first to examine systematically practices of policing and incarceration in the modern Middle East, the emergence of modern policing and prisons and their continued predominance. It offers a useful lens through which the complexity of state power and the contours of popular contentious politics can be read.


Laleh Khalili is Senior Lecturer in Middle East Politics at SOAS, and the author of Heroes and Martyrs of Palestine: the Politics of National Commemoration (Cambridge, 2007).

Jillian Schwedler is Associate Professor in Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and most recently the author of Faith in Moderation: Islamist Parties in Jordan and Yemen (Cambridge, 2006).


‘Theoretically informed, critical and empirically rich, this book succeeds in throwing light into dark corners and shows the cruelty and inhumanity that lurk behind institutions that many take for granted. Stark and harrowing as these accounts may be, they nevertheless provide glimpses into the ingenuity of resistance, proving that domination creates a field for contentious politics that can defy, enrage but also puzzle the heavy-handed bringers of ‘order”. – Professor Charles Tripp, SOAS

‘Sets a new standard for scholarship on the evolution of prisons and policing as coercive practices that have shaped and altered state-society relations throughout the Middle East. While political violence, authoritarianism and other variations of unrepresentative rule are rife throughout the region, the empirically rich and theoretically sophisticated essays in this collection are a refreshing alternative to scholarship that treats these phenomena as explanatory or emblematic. This book should be essential reading for anyone interested in the roles that prisons and policing play in the modern world’. –– Lisa Hajjar, Associate Professor in Law and Society, University of California, Author of Courting Conflict

‘This eye-opening collection offers new insights into the exercise and experience of power in the recent and contemporary Middle East on virtually every page. From nomads who transgress state borders to political activists who contest political limits, this book explores who drew those lines, who enforces them, and what happens to those who cross them. It is a fascinating, provocative and sobering treatment, and it merits the attention of anyone concerned with the intersection of political authority and daily life in the Middle East’. –– Professor Lisa Anderson, Provost, American University in Cairo and James T. Shotwell Professor of International Relations at Columbia University