Contested Modernity

Pages: 288
Subject: History, Politics, Middle East
Series: Radical Histories of the Middle East
Imprint: Oneworld

Contested Modernity

Sectarianism, Nationalism, and Colonialism in Bahrain

Omar H. AlShehabi

An innovative reading of the rise of sectarianism across the Middle East, including the part played by British colonialism

9781786072917 (4 Apr 2019)
RRP £25.00 / US$30.00

The Book

Today, discussions of the Arab world, especially the Gulf States, are increasingly defined by the use of ethnosectarian terms. Such divisions are often assumed to be directly related to Islamism and oil, but their roots can be traced back much further - to the early twentieth century and Bahrain under British colonial rule.

Drawing on a wealth of local literature unexamined in previous English-language studies, Omar H. AlShehabi analyses how colonialism and modernization contributed to Bahraini society's division along ethnic and sectarian lines. He assesses, too, the impact of emergent political movements of the time, in particular the nationalist al-Nahda renaissance which swept the Arab world in the nineteenth century. A groundbreaking work, Contested Modernity challenges us to reconsider how we see not only the Gulf but the wider Middle East as it was drawn by Britain and France in the aftermath of World War I.  

Additional Information

Subject History, Politics, Middle East
Series Radical Histories of the Middle East
Pages 288
Imprint Oneworld


About the Author

Omar AlShehabi is director of the Gulf Centre for Development Policies and an associate professor in economics at the Gulf University for Science and Technology, Kuwait. He is the author of several scholarly books and articles and has contributed to numerous international publications, including the Guardian, Al-Monitor and Jadaliyya.


‘With great ambition, rich empirical detail and theoretical nuance, this book successfully sets out to rewrite the history of modern Bahrain from the mid-nineteenth century until the present day. Omar AlShehabi has deployed an impressive range of Arabic sources to problematise the existing academic narratives that seek to explain Bahrain's relationship with the British and its own path to independence and state-building… A convincing and original new explanation of the lineages of modern Bahrain, essential reading for anyone who wants to understand Bahraini history, the modern politics of the Gulf and rise of sectarian politics in the Middle East.'

- Toby Dodge, Professor of International Relations, London School of Economics

‘AlShehabi offers an insightful and a fresh perspective that challenges dominant narratives on contemporary sectarian politics in Bahrain and the other states of the Arabian Gulf. While situating the Arab Gulf countries within mainstream debates on Arab Al Nahda, the book provides well-argued analyses of the Gulf-specific colonial experiences and the colonial roots of "the modernized absolutist rule” in the region.'

- Abdulhadi Khalaf, Professor of Sociology, Lund University