Political Movements in Bahrain Across the Long 20th Century (1900-2015) (in The Oxford Handbook for the Contemporary Middle-Eastern and North African History)
This chapter traces the birth, rise, and evolution of political movements in Bahrain throughout the long twentieth century, taking as its starting point the beginning of direct British presence in the local political scene in 1900, and ending with the aftermath of the mass protests that engulfed the islands in 2011. It highlights four intersecting dichotomies that have characterized these political movements across time: trans-sectarian versus ethnosectarian, national versus transnational, reformist versus revolutionary, and public versus underground. It sheds light on the importance of externally imposed structural factors on local developments on the island, including British colonial absolutist rule, the discovery of oil and the subsequent fluctuation in the commodity’s global prices, and the rise of American hegemony. Taking its cue from the work of the autonomistas, the analysis also highlights the central role that political movements have played in shaping the actions and reactions of the state. The state’s attempts to contain these movements, and the contestation between the two sides, played a central role in shaping the contours of both state and society across Bahrain’s long century.