Navigation – Plan du site

Call for proposals for Arabian Humanities n°13 Special issue: “Education in the Arabian Peninsula: Narratives, Political Issues and Social Dynamics (19th–21st Centuries)”

Recall and amendment : Deadline for submitting the abstracts : 15 September 2018

Editors: Juliette Honvault (CNRS, IREMAM), Talal Al-Rashoud (University of Kuwait).

A common stereotype of the Arabian Peninsula, seen even in the academic literature, portrays the region as a cultural and intellectual desert. According to this view, before the arrival of oil, the harsh conditions of life stifled cultural and intellectual activity beyond the essential domains of tradition and religion. The study of the history of education in the region provides a vital corrective to this preconception. Alongside venerable centers of Islamic learning (in Mecca, Zabīd in Yemen, etc.), modern schools began to blossom throughout the region from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, variously established by Ottoman authorities, American missionaries, cosmopolitan merchants, modernist ʿulamāʾ, and nationalist activists. The arrival of a nationally and ideologically diverse array of teachers, some deputed by governments from outside the Peninsula, further contributed to the vibrant cultural cross-pollination that occurred within these institutions. They served as hotbeds of new ideas and movements, often growing up in association with libraries, cultural clubs, and charitable societies.

The significance of the study of modern education in the region is by no means limited to the cultural field. From the start, modern schools in the region were closely tied to political dynamics. In places such as Jeddah and Kuwait, merchant-funded schools became platforms for “civic activism” and precursors of participatory governance (Freitag; Al-Rashoud). Schools also served as focuses of communal mobilization among ethnic and/or religious minorities, as in the case of the ʿAjam in Bahrain (Fuccaro), or became an arena of contention between various forces. Perceiving its political significance, the British sought to control education in the states under their protection with varying degrees of success. Notably, in Bahrain, the British-controlled administration subjected local schools to its oversight from the 1920s, purging them of undesirable elements (Al-Tajir). In the south of the Peninsula, after Aden became a Colony (1937), the British administrators tried to make it a showcase for imperial education.

Britain was not the only external power to use education for political ends; Nasserist Egypt exerted great influence throughout the Peninsula through its officially deputed teachers and educational experts (Tsourapas). In the 1950s and 60s, the educational field in the Trucial States became an ideological and political battleground as the British and their regional allies sought to counter the educational assistance provided by Arab states such as Egypt and Kuwait (von Bismarck; Alhajeri). Various political movements also competed to spread their influence within the educational institutions of particular states. For example, in 1950s Qatar, Islamists and Arab nationalists backed by opposing ruling family factions vied for control over the country’s nascent Educational Department (Al-Kobaisi). With the rise of state educational systems, education also offered a means for the cultivation of political identities, be they territorial, Pan-Arab, or Pan-Islamic – a topic that has been rarely addressed in the case of the Arabian Peninsula. In South Yemen and revolutionary Dhofar, schools were even used to inculcate Marxism-Leninism (Al-Noban; Jaʿbub).

Whether pursued from the angle of culture, politics, or otherwise, studying the history of education in the Arabian Peninsula also allows for the region’s wide-ranging transnational ties to be highlighted. In certain cases, schools in the region formed extensions of imperial systems of education – be they Ottoman or British. With the rise of Islamic modernism and Arab nationalism in the twentieth century, Arabian educators looked to the Arab states for inspiration, teachers, textbooks, and curriculums. The pursuit of education also motivated men and women from the region to study abroad in South Asia and the Arab world, and later the West. Government scholarship programs supported this trend, particularly after the onset of oil revenue. Eventually, states in the region were even able to host scholarship students themselves. Education thus provided a vital bridge across which the Peninsula engaged with the wider world.

To a large extent, the potentialities of the study of the history of education in the Arabian Peninsula have yet to be explored. Much of the literature remains limited to chronicles written by former teachers and/or students at the region’s early schools, which are valuable sources of information but are non-academic in nature (e.g. al-Mahadin; al-Nuri; al-Shaikh; al-Shihab). In the 1970s and 80s, a series of dissertations appeared on modern education in the Arabian Peninsula that devoted a great deal of attention to its historical development (al-ʿAbd al-Ghafur; al-Arḍī; Al Hamer; Al-Kobaisi; Al-Misnad; Shirawi). Although it laid the groundwork for the academic study of the subject, this scholarship is sorely in need of updating and expansion. In the past several decades, historical studies focusing on education in the region have been few and far between, while educational studies devoting significant attention to historical dynamics have been similarly scarce.

This special issue of Arabian Humanities seeks to spark renewed interest in this neglected topic from a variety of disciplinary approaches (history, education, sociology, anthropology, geography…). In addition to the afore-mentioned angles of analysis, other possible subjects could include the interactions of traditional and modern forms of education (through personnel mobility and exchanges, common or competing educative tools and ideologies…); the development of girls and women education; educational networks between the Peninsula, Asia (South and Southeast) and East Africa; the links between governmental and private systems; the difficulties and discriminations in access to schooling or to the teaching profession; linguistic issues; the role of schools in shaping the social (re)organisation of a quarter or a city; student networks, collective memories ; new actors in the educative field …

Proposals for papers should be sent before the 15 September 2018 to the editors of this special issue: Juliette Honvault (, and Talal Al-Rashoud (; as wells as to Sylvaine Giraud (

They will include:

  • The title of the paper

  • An abstract of 15 to 20 lines

  • Data allowing the exact identification of the author: full name, institutional affiliation and function, institutional address, phone number, e-mail.

After acceptance, the deadline for submission of articles is January 15, 2019. Authors are requested to meet the publication norms of Arabian Humanities, available here or from the Editorial Secretary, Sylvaine Giraud (


al-ʿAbd al-Ghafur, Fawziyya Yūsuf. Taawwur al-taʿlīm fī- al-Kuwayt 1912-1972. Kuwait: Maktabat al-Falah, 1983.

al-Arī, ‘Alī Ṣalāḥ Muḥammad, Tārīkh al-ta‘līm fī ‘Adan (1839-1967). Al-Shārqa, ‘Adan: Dār al-Thaqāfa al-‘Arabiyya li-l-Nashr, Jāmi‘at ‘Adan, 2001.

Freitag, Ulrike. “The Falah School in Jeddah: Civic Engagement for Future Generations?” Jadaliyya (6/5/2015).

Fuccaro, Nelida. “Mapping the Transnational Community: Persians and the Space of the City in Bahrain, c.1869-1937.” In Transnational Connections and the Arab Gulf, edited by Madawi Al-Rasheed. London and New York: Routledge, 2005.

al-ajarī, ‘Abdallah Muḥammad. “Britānya wa-l-musāʿada al-taʿlīmiyya al-kuwaytiyya li-imārat al-sāḥil al-mutaṣāliḥ (1953-1971).” awliyyāt al-adab wa-l-ʿulūm al-ijtimāʿiyya 31 (Mar 2011).

al Hamer, Abdul-Malik Yousuf. Development of Education in Bahrain 1940-1965. Bahrain: Oriental Press, 1969.

Jaʿbūb, Munā Sālim. Qiyādat al-mujtamaʿ nahw al-taghyīr: al-tajriba al-tarbawiyya li-thawrat ufār (1969-1992). Bayrūt: Markaz Dirāsat al-Waḥda al-ʿArabiyya , 2010.

al-Kobaisi, Abdulla Juma. “The Development of Education in Qatar, 1950-1977, With an Analysis of Some Educational Problems.” PhD diss., University of Durham, 1979.

al-Maādīn, ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd. Al-khurūj min al-ʿatama. Bayrūt: al-Muʾassasa al-ʿArabiyya li-l-Dirāsāt wa-l-Nashr, 2003.

al-Misnad, Sheikha Abdalla. “The Development of Modern Education in Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar with Special Reference to the Education of Women and their Position in Modern Gulf Society.” PhD diss., University of Durham, 1984.

al-Noban, Saeed Abdul Khair. “Education for Nation-building. The Experience of the People’s Democratic Republic of the Yemen.” In Contemporary Yemen: Politics and Historical Background, edited by B.R. Pridham. London and Sydney: Croom Helm and University of Exeter, 1984.

al-Nūrī, ʿAbdallah. Qiṣṣat al-taʿlīm fī al-Kuwayt fī nif qarn: Min sanat 1300 ilā sanat 1360 ijrīyya. Kuwait: Dhāt al-Salāsil, nd.

al-Rashoud, Talal. “Modern Education and Arab Nationalism in Kuwait, 1911-1961.” PhD diss., School of Oriental and African Studies, 2016.

al-Shaykh, ʿĀrif. Tārīkh al-taʿlīm fī Dubay 1912-1972. N.p.: 2004.

al-Shihāb, Ṣālīḥ. Tārīkh al-taʿlīm fī al-Kuwayt wa-l-Khalīj ayyām zamān. Vol. 1. Kuwait: Maṭbaʿat Ḥukūmat al-Kuwayt, 1984.

Shirawi, May Al-Arrayed. “Education in Bahrain – 1919-1986 An Analytical Study of Problems and Progress.” PhD diss., University of Durham, 1987.

al-Tajir, Mahdi Abdalla. Bahrain 1920-1945: Britain, the Shaikh and the Administration. London, New York, Sydney: Croom Helm, 1987.

Tsourapas, Gerasimos. “Nasser’s Educators and Agitators across al-Watan al-‘Arabi: Tracing the Foreign Policy Importance of Egyptian Regional Migration, 1952-1967.” British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 43, No. 3 (2016).

Von Bismarck, Helene. “ ‘A Watershed in our Relations with the Trucial States’: Great Britain’s Policy to Prevent the Opening of an Arab League Office in the Persian Gulf in 1965.” Middle Eastern Studies 47, No. 1 (Jan 2011).

Haut de page
  • Logo Centre français d’Archéologie et de Sciences Sociales
  • Logo Institut de recherches et d'études sur le monde arabe et musulman
  • Logo Ministère des Affaires étrangères et européennes
  • Logo CNRS - Institut des sciences humaines et sociales
  • OpenEdition Journals