Role Theory in the Middle East and North Africa: Politics, Economics and Identity, 1st Edition (e-Book) book cover

Role Theory in the Middle East and North Africa

Politics, Economics and Identity, 1st Edition

By Yasemin Akbaba, Özgür Özdamar


136 pages

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pub: 2019-06-03
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Since December 2010, a series of uprisings, revolutions, coups and civil wars have shaken up the Middle East and North Africa region. In this chaotic political environment, several countries have been trying to influence this regional transformation. The implications of this transformation are of great importance for the region, its people and global politics.

Using a rich combination of primary and secondary sources, elite interviews and content analysis, Yasemin Akbaba and Özgür Özdamar apply role theory to analyze ideational (e.g. identity, religion) and material (e.g. security, economy) sources of national role conceptions in Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The authors take a closer look at the transformation of these four powers’ foreign policies since the beginning of Arab uprisings, with a specific focus on religion. Each case study is written to a common template allowing for clear comparative analyses.

Written in a clear and accessible style, Role Theory in the Middle East and North Africa offers a thought provoking and pioneering insight into the usefulness of role theory in foreign policy making in the developing world. The perfect combination of theoretically oriented and empirically rich analysis make this volume an ideal resource for scholars and researchers of International Relations, Foreign Policy, Middle East Politics and International Security.


"Role Theory in the Middle East and North Africa is a fascinating and also rigorous journey through policy analysis in the new millennium. With role theory providing structure, we learn a great deal about the foreign policies of important states in the Middle East and North Africa. This study sets a very high bar for future research. It is essential reading for those with both academic and policy-related interests in contemporary foreign policy."Patrick James, Dornsife Dean’s Professor, School of International Relations, USC

"Akbaba and Ozdamar offer a fresh and insightful analysis of how changing national role conceptions in the wake of the Arab Uprising have shaped the foreign policies of Egypt, Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. This ambitious work is a welcome contribution to the subfield of Foreign Policy Analysis, especially given its examination of faith-based ideational sources of national roles." Valerie M. Hudson, Texas A&M University

"This important book mines religion as a previously unexplored cultural source of national roles in world politics. Akbaba and Ozdamar use the concept of national role conceptions to reveal how religious differences regarding Islam shape national roles and thereby influence foreign policy actions of MENA states across their respective geopolitical positions. They also employ role theory to compare MENA responses to the Arab Spring and the Syrian Civil War. The results rest on the analysis of public statements by MENA leaders and evidence from regional specialists."Stephen G. Walker, Arizona State University

"This study provides interest new applications of role theory to foreign policy analysis. Examining Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, an Egypt during and after the "Arab spring," the authors emphasize the consistency between role conceptions and actions, as well as the ideational and material sources of those role conceptions. The volume is of interest both to area experts and to those who employ the role concept in foreign policy analysis."Kal Holsti, University Killam Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia

Table of Contents


Patrick James

1. Introduction: Ambitious Roles in a Transforming MENA

2. Role Theory and Sources of National Role Conceptions: Material and Ideational Factors

3. Egypt and Secular Nationalism after a Century

4. Iran and Shia Revolutionism

5. Saudi Arabia and Religious Conservatism

6. Turkey’s Liberal Offer

7. Conclusion

About the Author

Yasemin Akbaba is an associate professor at Gettysburg College. Her research focuses on the role of religion in international relations and foreign policy analysis. She has authored/co-authored several journal articles that have appeared in Political Studies, JPR, Comparative European Politics, FPA, Politics and Religion, Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, Ethnopolitics, Civil Wars, International Interactions, Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion, Politics, Religion & Ideology and others. She had also received Gettysburg College’s Thompson Award for distinguished teaching.

Özgür Özdamar is an Associate Professor at Bilkent University, Ankara. He has taught at different institutions, such as the University of Missouri-Columbia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, the Turkish Military Academy and the National Security College. Özdamar's research focuses on foreign policy analysis, IR theories and security studies. His articles were published in journals such as Political Research Quarterly, Foreign Policy Analysis, International Studies Review, Terrorism and Political Violence, Social Science Quarterly and Middle East Policy. He currently serves as editor of All Azimuth: Journal of Foreign Policy and Peace and on the editorial board of Foreign Policy Analysis journal.

About the Series

Role Theory and International Relations

Advisory Board: Marijke Breuning (University of North Texas), Sebastian Harnisch (University of Heidelberg), Valerie Hudson (Texas A & M University), Paul Kowert (Florida International University), Stephen G. Walker (Arizona State University).

The Role Theory and International Relations Series aspires to attract and publish the latest and best research integrating knowledge in the field of International Relations with role theory. This aspiration cuts across a wide swath of subfields, including foreign policy analysis, peace and security studies, international political economy, diplomatic studies, and international organization. While each of these subfields of study is presently organized as an "island of theory," this series intends to integrate their signature phenomena within a system of knowledge, a "theory complex" or an alliance among different subfields. This series showcases the ability of role theory to generate useful theoretical insights on its own or in combination with existing theories across these traditional subfields. Role theory’s conceptual repertoire, plus its ability to span multiple levels of analyses and the major meta-theoretical divides in the discipline position it to be an important integrative force in the study of International Relations.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / World / Middle Eastern