SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Wearing, David (2021) 'The myth of the reforming monarch: Orientalism, racial capitalism, and UK support for the Arab Gulf monarchies.' Politics. (Forthcoming)

Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 (CC BY-NC 4.0).

Download (179kB) | Preview


The narrative of ‘reform’ in Saudi Arabia, recently recurring in British political discourse around the kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, is situated within wider Orientalist themes, wherein a progressive and modern West is juxtaposed with an Arabian peninsula mired in backwardness. In this context, the purported Arab ‘reformer’ is presented as the ideal ally of the West, attempting to haul his society up to the West’s supposed standards, for example on women’s rights. This racialising narrative serves to legitimise British support for authoritarian Gulf regimes, thus helping to sustain the political economy of this set of international relations at the political level. It does this by obscuring the important role the United Kingdom plays in sustaining authoritarianism in the Arabian peninsula by externalising the explanatory focus onto the terrain of cultural difference. This article contributes to the literature on UK relations with the Arab Gulf monarchies by critically analysing the ways in which racialising discourses dovetail with material interests to reinforce and sustain these ties. In doing so, it also contributes to the emerging literatures on ‘racial capitalism’ and ‘race’ in international relations, through its exploration of the role of Orientalist discourse in this significant empirical case study.

Item Type: Journal Article
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of Politics & International Studies
ISSN: 02633957
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 23 Feb 2022 17:56

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item