Transnational Shia Politics: Religious and Political Networks in the Gulf

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Transnational Shia Politics: Religious and Political Networks in the Gulf
By Laurence Louër
Columbia University Press, 2008
256 pp. $34.50
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What better way to test the proposition that there is a politically powerful "Shiite crescent," orchestrated by Iran, than to examine the Shiite populations of Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia (with more than a few interesting asides concerning Shiites elsewhere). After setting out the main lines of Shiite history and the structure of the Shiite religious establishment, Louër presents the quite different histories of her chosen countries and the Shiite ideologies and political movements found in each. She traces a move away from a more transnational orientation, sparked by the Islamic Revolution in Iran, to one accepting national identity ("Politics is domestic," as one chapter puts it). The fruit of field research fleshed out by a thorough use of the theoretical and empirical literature, this is an especially coherent and informative book. Although it is not an easy read -- too many countries and clerics for that -- the introduction, the prefaces to each of the four parts dividing the book, and a brisk conclusion provide the framework needed.