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Social Capitalisation in Quest of Recognition: Egypt and Qatar in the 2010s



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Recognition is a key motivation of social actors. It is so in interpersonal relations as per recognition theory but also, as International Relations scholarship has shown, in international politics. However, the extensive application of the concept, encompassing phenomena ranging from social movements to international conflict, raises concerns about its analytical purchase. This thesis makes a theoretical proposition on the quest for recognition by regimes, in the name of the states with which they identify, under tighter conditions. Building on the established observation that a denial of recognition can prompt social actors to engage in a recognition struggle, this thesis qualifies the specific conditions of misrecognition under which the theorised quest unfolds. Against misrecognition by significant others of a state’s important self-identities, a regime may embark on a quest for recognition by leveraging social capitalisation processes. The thesis deploys the theory in Egypt and Qatar during two episodes in which they faced misrecognition of important self-identities of theirs, corresponding to self-identified positions in domestic and international hierarchies. Specifically, they faced contestation of their domestic legitimacy and their regional power status. While the Egyptian and Qatari regimes showcase markedly divergent material and ideational attributes, they have resorted to broadly similar recognition-seeking behaviours in the face of such misrecognition. Their quest for recognition has unfolded across domestic and international hierarchies and across regional and global ones, seeking to socially capitalise on international alt-recognition, international misrecognition, regional recognition, and global recognition. In making these arguments, I rely on four main bodies of material—namely, military procurement and cooperation data, regime media discourse, lobbying documentation submitted to the United States Department of Justice, and interviews conducted in Doha and Washington, DC. By examining Egypt’s and Qatar’s social capitalisation on (mis)recognition across hierarchical orders in pursuit of recognition, the analysis confirms the purchase of a social-relational approach and contributes to inverting the dominant from-above perspective on hierarchy.





Rangwala, Glen


Egypt, Hierarchy, Lobbying, Media Discourse, Military Procurement, Misrecognition, Qatar, Recognition, Social Capital


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
Orient-Institut Beirut Project on Middle East Political Science British Society for Middle Eastern Studies British International Studies Association