Arab and Middle Eastern Business Research: A Review of the Empirical Literature (1990-2013)

By Kalliny, Morris; Benmamoun, Mamoun | Multinational Business Review, December 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Arab and Middle Eastern Business Research: A Review of the Empirical Literature (1990-2013)


Kalliny, Morris, Benmamoun, Mamoun, Multinational Business Review


Introduction

Perhaps no other region, of late, has attracted so much attention - and caused so much concern - as the Arab region. Here, poverty, political instability, violence, terrorism, intolerance, illiteracy, technological and social backwardness, institutionalized segregation of the sexes (United Nations Development Programme, 2009), brutal police states and denials of basic human rights have been commonplace. While sociologists, historians, theologians and political scientists offer differing explanations of the sources of these dysfunctions, it is clear that the time has come for change. These changes, in turn, will have important and profound consequences for management education and research (Zahra, 2011).

As the world becomes increasingly connected and the fates of countries and regions become more intertwined, it is imperative that scholars and practitioners acquire a deeper understanding of individual countries and regions, particularly those that have been relatively understudied in the extant academic research (i.e. the Arab region). While there is a substantial body of Asian management research, as well as several comprehensive literature reviews of other regions (Bruton and Lau, 2008), a systematic review of Arab business research has not been undertaken. Despite the large amount of regional attention in political science research due to the Arab - Israel conflict, management research has lagged behind. For example, several scholars (Abernethy and Franke, 1996; Al-Olayan and Karande, 2000) identified the need for more studies across countries, especially those neglected parts of the world like the Arab region. Abernethy and Franke (1996) pointed out that some parts of the world (i.e. the Arab region) have been largely ignored in advertising research. Taylor (2005) corroborated this observation and examined international advertising papers published between 1994 and 2004 and found that 44 per cent were about Asia, 22 per cent about Europe, 22 per cent about developing countries and 12 per cent were global in theme (general, or multiple countries). While these examples focus on one area of business research (advertising), they highlight the dearth of academic research in the Arab region by management scholars.

Although it seems apparent that the Arab region has been ignored in the business and management fields and that more attention is warranted, we need a systematic approach. To do so, an examination of the past is crucial. The main objective for this study is to develop the only comprehensive review of Arab business research to date and provide management scholars a clear understanding of the key themes, background and history, as well as research approaches and insights that have been gained while identifying areas that have yet to be examined. This study intends to provide a road map of what has been done, as well as insights as to which roads should be traveled next to close the research gap that exists between the Arab region and other regions.

This review presents a systematic overview and analysis of the empirical research over a 20-year period, as well as the methodological issues that others have confronted in their investigations of the region. We hope that it will provide management scholars the needed information and incentives to consider including the Arab region in their future studies so that the region can serve as a fertile ground for theory testing and extension. In the following section, we provide various reasons as to why we selected this region to investigate in our study.

Why the Arab Middle Eastern region?

There are numerous reasons that make this part of the world not only worth investigating but also a "must investigate" region. We believe some of these reasons are applicable to other regions or locations as well, while some are unique to this region alone. The Arab world consists of 22 countries that have membership in the Arab league of which 12 are geographically located in the Middle East (Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine [the Gaza strip and West Bank], Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates [UAE] and Yemen) and 10 are geographically located in Africa (Algeria, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Somalia, Sudan and Tunisia). …

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