In recent years, Yemen, a backwater for centuries, is in the news as Osama bin Laden's ancestral homeland and an important battlefield in the war on terrorism. But don't expect this volume, assembled by researchers and lecturers at Exeter University (Mahdi and Lackner) and the Free University of Berlin (Würth), to touch these subjects as this collection of papers dates from a conference that took place in 1998. Rather, subjects covered include political economy, the legal system, environment, and social and regional issues. Left unaddressed—by the editors' own admission—are foreign relations, military affairs, and party politics.
Many articles show their age. Charles Schmitz, an associate professor at Towson University, for example, seeks to extrapolate future challenges to the Yemeni society based on economic indicators from the early 1990s. What once may have been timely becomes silly when delayed publication means, in effect, skipping over a decade of more recent statistics. Drew University professor Nora Ann Colton's section on labor migration raises eyebrows because it addresses "the Gulf crisis" without reference to the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent fall of the Saddam Hussein regime.
Such datedness is a pity. Scholarly literature on Yemen is sparse, and many of the chapters are serious. The contributors have not substituted theory for research, and the analysis of the judiciary and its machinations is useful. Updating former presidential legal advisor Hussein al-Hubaishi's chapter on commercial litigation would be especially valuable given growing U.S., European, and Chinese interest in investment in the region. Also in need of expansion are the articles on medical care and health. Given its potential, how frustrating it is that Yemen into the Twenty-First Century remains stubbornly in the twentieth.