Houses built on sand – Q&A with Simon Mabon

Posted by Alice Hoad - Thursday, 19 Mar 2020


How would you like someone who has read your book to sum it up in one sentence?

This book explores why people have engaged in protest across the Middle East and how their rulers have tried to stay in power.

What book in your field has inspired you the most?

Fred Halliday’s The International Relations of the Middle East.

Did your research take you to any unexpected places?

Unexpected, no. Interesting, yes. I vividly remember drinking coffee with Bahrainis overlooking the King Fahd causeway.

Which writing process do you use (computer, longhand, dictate, other)?


Why did you choose to publish with MUP?

MUP published one of the more influential books on Middle East politics (Ray Hinnebusch’s International Politics of the Middle East) and I heard wonderful things about the editors.

What are you working on now?

A follow up to my first book Saudi Arabia and Iran: Power and Rivalry in the Middle East, and an edited collection with Edward Wastnidge to be published with MUP looking at the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran across the Middle East.

If you could have been the author of any book, what would it be and why?

Fiction: Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra, one of the most inspiring, ambitious and challenging books I’ve ever read. It combines fiction with philosophical ruminations on the nature of religion within political projects and governance in divided societies, set under the hot sun of Mumbai. Non-fiction: Either Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer which is a devastating account of the ways in which sovereign power operates or Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism which is equally powerful.

What other genres do you enjoy reading?

I love history, philosophy and fiction. I read a lot of crime fiction from across the word and while I enjoy a good narrative, I enjoy international crime fiction because it reveals a great deal about society as well.

Which authors (academic and not) would you invite to a dinner party?

Vikram Chandra, Giorgio Agamben, Hannah Arendt, Phillip Kerr and Kamila Shamsie.



Houses built on sand: Violence, sectarianism and revolution in the Middle East is available to buy now.

Simon Mabon is Senior Lecturer in International Relations and Director of the Richardson Institute at Lancaster University



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