Haykel’s research is concerned with the political and social tensions that arise from questions about religious identity and authority. Much of his teaching and research lies at the juncture of the intellectual, political, and social history of the Middle East with particular emphasis on the countries of the Arabian Peninsula. He also has an interest in the effects of energy resources and rents on politics and society. An essential part of his work concerns the reception of reformist ideas at present and analysis of the Salafi heritage in contemporary debates among Sunnis as well as the Zaydi heritage among Shiites. Another concern pertains to the history and politics of the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, and Saudi Arabia in particular.
In addition to his teaching, Bernard Haykel directs the Institute for the Transregional Study of the Contemporary Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia. In the latter capacity, he organizes lectures and conferences around topics related to the politics and culture of the contemporary Middle East.