Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



Published in Anthropological Quarterly, Vol. 93, No. 2 (2020), pp 261–265.


Copyright © 2020 by the Institute for Ethnographic Research, George Washington University. Used by permission.


With a provocative title that inherently questions who might be served and educated best by the branch campuses of top US universities in Qatar and Gulf states, Vora’s new book debunks some old myths and reminds readers from the outset that “liberalism has Arabian roots” (18). Vora wonders about and studies the transplant of liberal education into “so-called illiberal” countries like Qatar and other Gulf States. Her timely book offers on-the-ground perspectives of students and faculty in these transplant institutions as they engage with curriculum and one another in a new knowledge economy. The book contributes to scholarship about how the cultural ideological framework of liberalism informs and shapes discourses on educational policies and the restructuring of nationalistic reforms for development across the Arab world.

Vora frames the book through a knowledge economy perspective that is tension filled. For example, throughout the book she examines the ef­fects of educational reform and nationalism as they are enacted in the US branch campuses of the Gulf. As Vora notes, branch campuses such as Education City in Qatar are simultaneously “spaces of contradiction” and “sites of new agencies and belongings” (29). As such, she argues that conceptions of knowledge economy become realigned with on-the-ground Arab nationalist orientations in combination with notions of the civilizing mission of Western knowledge economies. Furthermore, Vora examines the tensions that non-national students—the majority of the stu­dent population in the branch campuses—and Qatari students attending college experience, but as the author notes, there is no critical mass of Qatari students, and more importantly, there is little Qatarization of the workforce in this oil-rich Gulf state, wherein most people do not work. ...

As Teach for Arabia demonstrates, Gulf branch campuses are contest­ed pedagogical, national, public, and global terrains wherein a microcosm of the world gets educated. Unlike many other places, diversity character­izes their populations of students, faculty, and staff. Ironically, even in this transnational, diverse milieu, there is a paucity of recognition and under­standing of the Qatari student population vis-à-vis their work futures and their academic trajectories socioeconomically and culturally within the campuses and nationally. As Vora astutely shows throughout the book, the divergent discourses of nationalism and education reforms puts young college students at cross-roads in the “new” Qatari society.