Tribalism, religious radicalization, fossil energy, and the state: Deciphering local power politics in Yemen’s frontier provinces Ṣaʿdah and al-Jawf

In recent years the large borderland regions between Yemen and Saudi Arabia, in particular the governorates of Ṣaʿdah and al-Jawf, have become a central crisis zone in today’s globalizing world. Since Yemeni unification in 1990, this zone became the scene of particularly complex and violent local, national and international power struggles informed by social, economic, political, and sectarian backgrounds. Through the involvement of the regional super powers Saudi Arabia and Iran, and eventually the U.S. drone war in Yemen, this formerly peripheral area has become the focus of international attention and security concerns. Having arisen largely unnoticed during the recent decades, these local conflicts have developed potentials with national and international impact, affecting stability and security in Yemen, the Middle East, Europe and the world community as a whole. In addition, without a profound historically, socially and politically informed analysis of recent and current developments in this area, a key moment of the “Arab Spring” movement and the emergence of new fault lines between Sunni and Shia denominations throughout the Near and Middle East would escape our understanding.
This project explores and explains the profound social, denominational, economic and political transformations in the provinces of Ṣaʿdah and al-Jawf during the recent decades by the means and tools of social anthropology and neighboring fields. Special consideration is given to the role of local actors in the implementation of broader political and sectarian programs and economic endeavors. The project builds on one of the oldest research traditions of the AAS - the exploration of South Arabia - which is linked to the famous names of Eduard Glaser, David H. Müller, Walter Dostal and Andre Gingrich.
Being based in Vienna, the project’s cooperation with internationally renowned experts from the universities of Princeton, London, Sydney, and Sana’a ensures its integration into the international research scene.