Qabila in the 21st Century

The Role of Tribes in the Domestic Politics of the Gulf

Principal Investigator: Dr Courtney Freer
Duration: January 2017–May 2019

Camels crossing sign in Qatar, Philip Lange /

This research project analyses the political role of tribes within Gulf societies, often described as intensely tribal. It seeks to answer critical questions about the degree to which tribes hinder or advance popular participation in government, as well as to reveal how and to what extent tribes exert domestic political power. By constructing political histories of major tribes and analysing their role in domestic political life, this study shows the means in which tribes serve as major political actors in the small Gulf states, beginning with case studies of Kuwait and Qatar.


Project outputs

  • In June 2018 a workshop titled 'Tribe and the State in the Middle East' was held at LSE bringing together academics, experts and practioners to discuss the political and social role played by tribes in the present-day Middle East. 
  • 12 blog posts published on the LSE Middle East Centre blog from participants in the June 2018 workshop.
  • Article published in the British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies entitled 'Clients or challengers? Tribal constituents in Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE' in June 2019

Principal Investigator


Courtney Freer

Courtney is Research Fellow at the Kuwait Programme, LSE Middle East Centre.




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