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The Gulf Research Unit (completed)

Will the current regimes in the Gulf countries remain stable in the coming years? Will the tide turn towards more democratic regimes, or will authoritarian leaders tighten their grip?

The Gulf Research Unit it says with letters. And something like a drop. Logo.

Will these resource-rich countries remain important energy suppliers, or will a financial restructuring take place? These are questions the Gulf Research Unit has investigated.

About the project

GRU consisted of 11 sub-projects, organized in the following three research clusters.

Dynamics of Political Change

The research cluster on "dynamics of political change" challenged the static view of politics that prevails in rentier state theory, and identified actual and potential factors for political change in the Gulf region.

Understanding the "Gulf Model (s)"

This cluster aimed to achieve a comprehensive grasp of how the Gulf economies function. What is the interrelationship between natural resources, decision-making institutions, social class, distribution and development?

The Oil-Belt Micro-Region

The research cluster on the oil-belt "micro-region" from South-western Iran to the Eastern province in Saudi Arabia had geopolitics in a very literal sense as the point of departure.


The project aimed to build an interdisciplinary research unit with expertise on the Gulf region, with close contacts to the similar institutions abroad.

Moreover, GRU aimed at advancing the understanding of political, social, legal and economic aspects of development in the resource-rich Gulf countries. Key countries for the project included Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

One of the project's main goals was to advance the field of Gulf studies and recruitment was an essential part of our work. Thus, the project announced two scholarships for master students every year.


The Gulf Research Unit's Blog


The project lasted five years and was funded through The Research Council of Norway’s PETROSAM program.


The Gulf Research Unit (GRU) was an interdisciplinary project based at the Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages (IKOS) at the University of Oslo.

The project had participants from various departments and institutions, such as the Department of Economics at the University of Oslo, SSB, NHH, Fafo and NUPI.


The project held open mini seminars once a month, as well as an annual conference.

Saudi Arabia in troubled waters

Time and place: Sep. 11, 2013 9:00 AM–3:30 PM, Litteraturhuset, Wergelandssalen.

This international conference gathered renowned international scholars on Saudi Arabia from a range of academic disciplines in order to provide a broad analysis of how Saudi Arabia is responding to challenges rising before the Kingdom in the wake of the Arab Uprisings.

What comes next?

Time and place: May 2, 2013, George Sverdrups hus Auditorium 2.

The aim of this conference was to analyze the effects of the 2011 Arab revolutions for the Middle East and North Africa oil producing countries, and discuss their implications for the long term stability in the region.

The political economy of the Gulf States: - When does oil become sand in the machinery?

Time and place: University of Oslo, 4th of May 2011.

The Next Iraqi Government

Time and place: University of Oslo, 10th of May 2010.

Dynamics of Political Change in the Gulf: Implications of Electoral Politics in Iran and Kuwait

Time and place: 22nd of November 2009. Panel held at the MESA Annual Meeting 2009 in Boston.

Iran at the Crossroads - the 2009 Presidential Elections

26th of May 2009, at the University of Oslo.


Book chapters

  • Ane Mannsåker Roald ”Informal regionalism in the Gulf” i The political economy of regions and regionalisms, (red. Morten Bøås, Marianne H. Marchand, Timothy M. Shaw), Palgrave Macmillan dec. 2005

Gulf Studies


  • No 1 Kjetil Bjorvatn and Kjetil Selvik, Destructive Competition: Oil and Rent-seeking in Iran, Norges handelshøyskole 2005.
  • No 2 Kjetil Selvik, The Rise and Newfound Legitimacy of Iran’s Industrial Bourgeoisie, 2005.
  • No 3 Bjørn Olav Utvik, The Political Formation of Contemporary Iran, 2005. 2006
  • No 4 Kjetil Selvik, Neo-Cons in Power: Impacts on the economy,


  • No 5 Yadullah Shahibzadeh, Emergence of the Neo-Conservatives: Break-up of Conservative Wing in Iran,
  • 2006 No 6 Bjørn Olav Utvik, Neo-Cons in Power: End of Reform in Iran?, 2006.


  • No 7 Yadullah Shahibzadeh and Kjetil Selvik, Iran’s Political Community, 2007. No 8 Bjørn Olav Utvik, Demystifying Power Relations: Iranian Reformists Challenging Theocracy, 2007.


  • No 9 Yadullah Shahibzadeh and Kjetil Selvik, Iran’s Political Community – part II, 2008
  • No 10 Bjørn Olav Utvik, Iranian Reformism: Weak Voice of the Future, 2008
Published Oct. 26, 2020 1:52 PM - Last modified May 28, 2021 2:19 PM


Project manager:
Bjørn Olav Utvik

Project coordinator:
Kai E. Kverme