Political science researcher studies ‘politics of play’ in Middle East, wins Fulbright

Nicole Grove
Nicole Grove

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Assistant Professor Nicole Grove received a Fulbright Scholar Award in the Middle East and North Africa Regional Research Program for her work on security and entertainment and leisure infrastructures in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf.

Grove’s political science research involved six months of field research divided between the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. She conducted dozens of interviews and hundreds of hours of participant observation at entertainment complexes, gaming hubs, theme parks, convention centers, national festivals, shopping malls, schools and heritage sites to examine the politics of play within spaces of consumerism, elite mobility and cultural governance.

Her research maps the increasing influence of entertainment and leisure on political life in the Gulf, and the effects of security practices and technologies in the management of norms, bureaucracy and national narratives in these complex, artificial worlds. It considers how the investment in entertainment technologies, technologies of security and the proliferation of artificial landscapes for leisure and living reflect novel attempts at engineering public culture.

“Traditional international relations tends to leave popular culture in the margins in favor of more instrumentalist views of power politics,” said Grove. “Pursuing my interest in popular culture and play did not come at the exclusion of my research on security and geopolitics, but instead I found it enabled me to gain greater insight into more subtle social and political practices that pursue geopolitics by other means. The Fulbright award allowed me to explore the different ways in which play has emerged as a kind of ethos of the nation alongside the development of new modes of securitization and mobility, and as part of the Gulf’s changing foreign policy abroad.”

Grove’s Fulbright research continues her previous fieldwork in Beirut, where she conducted interviews with gamers and developers from Lebanon, Jordan and Tunisia to discuss how people use games as forms of public discourse about issues ranging from traffic safety to human rights.

More about Nicole Grove

Nicole Grove is an assistant professor in the Political Science Department in the College of Social Sciencesat UH Mānoa, and affiliate faculty in the Hawaiʻi Research Center for Futures Studies and the International Cultural Studies Program. Her research interests are located at the intersection of international relations and transnational Middle East politics, focusing on issues of security, gender, technology, visuality and popular culture. Grove is an associate editor for the journal International Political Sociology, and is on the International Advisory Board of the British Journal of Politics and International Relations.

She has a forthcoming book chapter that discusses her research methodology in the edited collection How to do Popular Culture in International Relations and has presented selections of her work at Villanova University and the Middle East Studies Association Annual Conference. She is currently working on an article based on her fieldwork that considers the production and promotion of mobile games by government and policing agencies as educational resources.

Source: A UH News story