Transnational Shia Politics

Religious and Political Networks in the Gulf

Part of the CERI/Sciences Po. series
January 2012 9781850659112 256pp
Temporarily out of stock
January 2012 9781849042147 256pp
Temporarily out of stock



This timely book illuminates the historical origins and present situation of militant Shia transnational networks by focusing on three key countries in the Gulf: Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, whose Shia Islamic groups are the offspring of Iraqi movements. The reshaping of the area’s geopolitics after the Gulf War and the fall of Saddam Hussein in April 2003 have had a profound impact on transnational Shiite networks, pushing them to focus on national issues in the context of new political opportunities. For example, from being fierce opponents of the Saudi monarchy, Saudi Shiite militants have tended to become upholders of the Al-Sa’ud dynasty. The question remains, however, how deeply in society have these new beliefs taken root? Can Shiites be Saudi or Bahraini patriots? Louër concludes her book by analysing the transformation of the Shia ‘movements’ relation to central religious authority, the marja’, who reside either in Iraq and Iran. This is all the more problematic when the marja’ is also the head of a state, as with Ali Khamenei of Iran, who has many followers in Bahrain and Kuwait.


‘This remarkably nuanced study of Shiite politics in the Gulf region looks at the increasing visibility of Shiism there beyond the stereotyped narratives of sectarian conflict, minority identity and Iranian policy that are generally invoked to describe the character of Arab Shiism. Louer gives us a fascinating account of the related yet different historical processes that define Shiite politics and identity in Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.’ –– Faisal Devji

‘This is an especially coherent and informative book.’ — Foreign Affairs

‘Louer is supremely qualified to write on the countries where Shiites constitute significant portions of the population … Highly recommended.’ — CHOICE


Laurence Louër is Associate Professor at the Centre for International Studies (CERI), Sciences. An Arabist, Louër specialises in Middle East studies. Editor of Critique Internationale from 2006 to 2017, she is the author, among other writings, of To Be An Arab in Israel (Hurst/Columbia), Transnational Shia Politics (Hurst/OUP) and Shiism and Politics in the Middle East (Hurst/OUP).    

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