The Yemen Syllabus

Prepared by Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies

This document aims to guide readers toward substantive and important publications related to Yemen.

Section A includes suggestions on how to get accurate and up-to-date information on the country.

Section B lists academics and analysts who have written on Yemen.

Section C outlines what the Sana’a Center views as must-read publications on Yemen. These include books, reports and articles, broken down by theme.

 

1. Reports and news on Yemen

  • The Yemen Review: Monthly publication by the Sana’a Center that assesses current diplomatic, economic, political, military, security, humanitarian and human rights developments related to Yemen.

For all other Sana’a Center publications, see: https://sanaacenter.org/publication

1) News in Arabic:

2) News in English:

  • Journalists including Saeed al-Batati, Saleh al-Batati, Mohammed Ghobari, Ahmed al-Hajj, Maggie Michael, Mohammed Mukhashaf, Nasser al-Saqqaf and Amal al-Yarisi regularly report on Yemen in English.

 

2. Academics and Analysts

Academics and analysts who have worked and published on Yemen – in English – include:

  • Adam Baron, Laurent Bonnefoy, Marieke Brandt, Sheila Carapico, Steve Caton, Iona Craig, Susanne Dahlgren, Nadwa Dawsari, Maysaa Shuja al-Deen, Elana DeLozier, Paul Dresch, Sama’a al-Hamdani, Bernard Haykel, Marie Christine Heinize, Ginny Hill, Gregory Johnsen, Elisabeth Kendall, Helen Lackner, Luca Nevola, Thanos Petouris, Stacey Philbrick Yadav, Peter Salisbury.

 

3. Publications by Theme

1) General overview and historical background

Below is a collection of books that shed some light on Yemen’s current war and, just as importantly, how the country got to this point. Phillips’ and Dresch’s monographs remain the decisive overviews of pre-2011 Yemen. Mackintosh-Smith provides a broad sweep of what Yemen was in the past and helps set a firm foundation for understanding contemporary issues in the country. Brehony provides a history of South Yemen and the 1990 unification. Hill and Brandt offer important insights into Yemen’s more recent history. Johnson’s book provides an excellent window into Yemen and its contemporary history and politics through the lens of Al-Qaeda. Lackner examines how different factors such as international neo-liberalist policies contributed to the disintegration of the Yemeni state and how other important issues, such as an increasing water crisis, might affect Yemen’s future. Her monograph includes a concise summary of the 2011 uprising in Yemen and its aftermath.  

  • Tim Mackintosh-Smith, “Yemen: Travels in Dictionary Land,” Trafalgar Square, 1998
  • Paul Dresch, “A History of Modern Yemen,” Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000
  • Sarah Phillips, “Yemen and the Politics of Permanent Crisis,” Abingdon/New York: Routledge, 2011
  • Noel Brehony, “Yemen Divided: The Story of a Failed State in South Arabia,” London/New York: I.B. Tauris, 2013
  • Gregory Johnsen, “The Last Refuge: Yemen, Al-Qaeda and America’s War in Arabia,” W. Norton & Company, 2014
  • Marieke Brandt, “Tribes and Politics in Yemen: A History of the Houthi Conflict,” London: Hurst, 2017
  • Ginny Hill, “Yemen Endures,” Oxford University Press, 2017
  • Helen Lackner, “Yemen in Crisis: Autocracy, Neo-Liberalism and the Disintegration of a State,” Saqi Books, 2017

Other books that provide valuable insight into Yemen:

  • Laurent Bonnefoy, “Salafism in Yemen: Transnationalism and Religious Identity,” Hurst & Company, 2011
  • “Why Yemen Matters: A Society in Transition,” Helen Lackner (ed.), SOAS Middle East Issues, Saki Books, 2014
  • Laura Kasinof, “Don’t Be Afraid of the Bullets: An Accidental War Correspondent in Yemen,” Arcade, 2014
  • Tim Mackintosh-Smith, “Yemen: The Unknown Arabia,” Harry N. Abrams, 2014
  • “Arabia Incognita: Dispatches from Yemen and the Gulf,” Shelia Carapico (ed.), Just World Books, 2016
  • Askar H. Al-Enazy, “The Long Road From Taif to Jeddah: Resolution of a Saudi-Yemeni Boundary Dispute,” The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research, 2017
  • “Hadramaut and its Diaspora: Yemeni Politics, Identity and Migration,” Noel Brehony (ed.), I.B. Tauris, 2017
  • Laurent Bonnefoy, “Yemen and the World: Beyond Insecurity,” Comparative Politics and International Studies series, Hurst and Oxford University Press, 2019

 

2)  Yemen’s Arab Spring-inspired uprising, failed transition and the lead up to war

In 2011, Yemen, like many other countries in the region, experienced an anti-government uprising. The failure of the once-hailed, internationally-backed transitional government that ostensibly aimed to make Yemen a functioning democracy served as the catalyst to the country’s current civil war. Salient texts in this regard include:

 

3) Internal Yemeni politics and divisions

While much analysis – and policy – treats Yemen’s conflict as Sana’a-centric, the reality is far more complicated. Over the course of the ongoing conflict, longstanding tensions among various regions of Yemen – which have different histories and political, social, tribal, religious and economic geographies – have dramatically burst to the fore, rendering them a key factor to be dealt with in any coming peace process.

 

4) Regional tensions

Descriptions of Yemen as a regional proxy war pitting Saudi Arabia against Iran are simplistic at best and often employed with malicious intent. Nonetheless, regional politics — and their relationship to Yemen’s internal tensions — have undeniably played a key role in bringing Yemen to its current nadir.

 

5) The economy and humanitarian situation

Among the world’s most impoverished nations, Yemen is currently home to the Middle East’s most severe humanitarian crisis. But while the country’s economic woes have been exacerbated by the ongoing conflict, they predate the country’s political crisis and subsequent collapse into civil war and are related to a number of endemic issues, including corruption and underdevelopment.

 

6) Women and Youth

Among the side effects of Yemen’s 2011 uprising was the empowerment of Yemen’s long-stifled women and youth populations. However, four years of conflict have in many aspects rolled back tentative gains toward women’s rights and at the same time simultaneously pushed many women into the workforce, while tens of thousands of Yemeni youths have signed up for the myriad armed groups currently waging war in the country.

 

7) Miscellaneous

Not exactly related to current politics in Yemen, but entertaining and informative reads:

  • Kit Chellel and Matthew Cambell, “The Hijacking of the Brillante Virtuoso,” Bloomberg, July 27, 2017.
  • Trevor Marchand, “Architectural Heritage of Yemen: Buildings that Fill My Eye,” Gingko Library, 2017.
  • Alan Verskin “A Vision of Yemen: The Travels of a European Orientalist and His Native Guide,” Stanford University Press, 2018.
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