Sheila Carapico's book on civic participation in modern Yemen makes an authoritative, pathbreaking contribution to the study of political culture in the Arabian peninsula. Relying on in-depth documentary and field research, the author traces the political dynamics of the last fifty years, that culminated in Yemeni unification, focusing on efforts to develop the political, economic, and social structures of a modern, democratic government. Her wide-ranging analysis of the legal, institutional, and financial aspects of state building and of popular dimensions of political liberalization, protest, and participation challenge the stereotypical view of conservative Arab Muslim society. The political economy approach to the study which reveals a surprising degree of 'activism in Arabia' also helps to interpret the nature of civil society from a broad theoretical perspective. This is an important book which promises to become the definitive work on twentieth-century Yemen.
"Carapico is most convincing in calling for an expanded understanding of Arab civil society. Her evidence about the myriad ways Yemeni citizens have participated in political life, tried to shape their communities, and improved their economic circumstances is difficult to refute and makes for a fascinating read. This book forces us to think about Arab civil society in a new way...the originiality and relevance of Carapico's thesis about civil society and the vast amount of theoretical, historical, economic, and political ground she covers ensures it is indeed path-breaking." Middle East Insight "The wide-ranging scope of this book and its depth will make it a standard source on Yemeni society and politics for years to come. Highly recommemded for scholars and graduate students." Choice "The final chapter is a brilliant and witty summation of her central thesis--that the recent political activism in Yemen belies the stereotyping linked to a strictly western view of civil society and that Yemen is quite civil and is progressing in democratization far more than other Arab countries." Daniel Martin Varisco, MESA Bulletin "The research is extremely impressive. The breadth of primary source documentation from Yemen sets a high standard for those who follow. Carapico does well in analytically distinguishing the various bases and objectives of Yemen's civil organizations, their leadership and their fate. Yemen has a complicated and tortured history and the book effectively communicates that complexity within a comprehensive framework." Pete W. Moore, Canadian Journal of Political Science "Sheila Carapico's Civil Society in Yemen: The Political Economy of Activism in Modern Arabia is an impressive contribution to the theoretical study of civil society in the Arab world and to the empirical case study of Yemen. The book reflects the author's extensive archival research of Arabic, English and European sources, and her personal familiarity with Yemen and Yemenis as a student, researcher, consultant, and friend for almost 30 years...Civil Society in Yemen is a valuable resource for upper-level undergraduate students and experienced researchers alike. The rich background detail of local and regional social, economic and political events makes this book of interest to a wide readership..." Janine A. Clark, Middle East Journal "...Sheila Carapico...Her work contributes both to a wider knowledge of Yemen's recent history and to the academic dispute over the nature of civil society in the Arab world." Malcolm B. Russell, The Historian "This book...should be required reading now for researchers of the Arab world and comparative politics, especially those wedded to the belief that the lack of formal legalistic activism is responsible for the Arab world's authoritarian malaise...Carapico's fine work is an effective antidote to Middle Eastern political scientists who still sheepishly offer that Yemen is too strange to be compared with the region's other less dramatic democratic moments." Arab Studies Journal "...the originality and relevance of Carapico's thesis about civil society and the vast amount of theoretical, historical, economic, and political ground she covers ensures it is indeed path-breaking. By the end, this reviewer was optimistic about the potential in Yemen, as Carapico says, of society to continue helping to civilize the state." Middle East Insight "Civil Society in Yemen addresses a very interesting topic and offers an insightful analysis. The book deserves wide citculation, especially in the post-9/11 era when understanding civil society and related dynamics in different cultures has become more of a necessity." Voluntas