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Middle Eastern Studies Program, Dean of the College, and Historical Studies Program present

From Urban Planning to Joyriding in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Candidate for Middle Eastern History

Pascal Menoret, Ph.D.

  New York University Abu Dhabi

Joyriding (al-tafhit) emerged in the 1970s on the urban grid of Riyadh, the Saudi capital. This practice evolved from an initially innocuous pastime to a complex subculture with regular events and challenges, songs and poetry, online videos, a specific slang, and frequent encounters with the Riyadh police department. Its aficionados are overwhelmingly young, disenfranchised Saudis who look for fun in an urban environment characterized by surveillance and repression. I reconstitute the urban planning of Riyadh in the late 1960s and 1970s and show how joyriding emerged as a byproduct of the 1972 master plan, the 1973 oil boom, and clientelist power dynamics. I then document the tools used by joyriders, the terrain they occupy, the figures they elaborated, and the subculture that coalesced around joyriding. Following Henri Lefebvre’s remark that “the class struggle is inscribed in space” (The Production of Space 55), I argue that joyriding is both an accommodation to Riyadh and a critique of its urban spaces.

Time: 4:45 pm

Location: RKC 103