Dr. Mark Thompson: Assistant Professor of Middle East Studies
Department of Global and Social Studies
I obtained my Ph.D. from the Institute of Arab & Islamic Studies, University of Exeter, UK. In addition, I hold a Bachelor's Degree from Manchester Polytechnic UK, a Master's Degree in Applied English Language Studies from the University of Wales UK, and a Master's Degree in Middle East Policy Studies also from the Institute of Arab & Islamic Studies, University of Exeter where I taught courses on Reform in the Gulf. I am also Senior Associate Fellow at King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies (KFCRIS) in Riyadh.
Although born in London, I was raised abroad, mainly in the USA, Italy and France, which led to a love of travel and being immersed in other cultures. After graduating with a BA in 1982, I worked throughout my twenties for an international duty-free company on cruise liners worldwide. This proved to be an invaluable period of my life in terms of both work experience and travel to often distant parts of the globe.
I had always considered a career in teaching, thus following my years at sea I enrolled on an English language teacher training course. After completing this course, I assumed my first teaching position in Ankara, Turkey. I subsequently consolidated my studies and teaching experience with a first Master's degree in Applied English Language Studies at the University of Wales. This degree, combined with my previous work experience, led directly to a teaching position at Korea Maritime University in Pusan, South Korea in 1992 where I taught English for Maritime Studies. Following my time in South Korea, I moved to a similar position at the Royal Thai Naval Academy south of Bangkok. Since then I have been fortunate to teach at a variety of tertiary institutions and military colleges in countries such as the UK, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, and, of course, Saudi Arabia.
My interest in the Arab World stems from work and travel in this region; as a result of this interest in Arab history, politics and culture, I decided to return to the UK to pursue a second Master's degree in Middle East Policy Studies at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies. Upon completion of this Master's degree, I was accepted onto the Ph.D. research programme at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies.
I have always been interested and intrigued by Saudi Arabia, and this fascination intensified after I began working in Jeddah in 2001. In addition to being based in Jeddah, I was fortunate that my work commitments with Saudi Arabian Airlines required extensive travel throughout the Kingdom. I also taught at the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG) School of Signals in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam. During my Middle East Policy Master's degree I increasingly focused on Saudi-related issues and this culminated in a dissertation on the political system in the Kingdom. Using my Master's dissertation as a starting point, I was able to develop my ideas and this process resulted in my Ph.D. research project that examined Saudi state-society discourse under King Abdullah. During my doctoral research I was based in Riyadh again, combining fieldwork with a lecturing position at Prince Sultan University. My fieldwork was conducted in many different locations in Saudi Arabia including Riyadh, Jeddah, Al-Khobar, Dammam and Najran and I was very fortunate to conduct interviews with individuals and focus groups from all walks of life. I returned to Saudi Arabia as a visiting researcher with KFCRIS in Riyadh, conducting follow-up interviews and updating my data.
I also work as a Saudi analyst and consultant for a number of British companies with Gulf interests and I have written for publications such as the Journal of Arabian Studies, Asian Affairs, Gulf States Newsletter, Middle East Studies, Conservative Middle East Committee and the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington DC. My book “Saudi Arabia the Path to Political Change: National Dialogue and Civil Society” was published by I.B. Tauris in May 2014. In addition, I published an edited volume in August 2017 with my colleague Dr. Neil Quilliam from Chatham House called “Policy-Making in the GCC: State Citizens & Institutions”. My Cambridge University Press book entitled “Being Young Male and Saudi: Identity and Politics in a Globalized Kingdom” will be published in 2019.