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

Crude Imaginations: Oil and the Material Politics of the Saudi Arabian State

Monday, December 17, 2012

Candidate for Middle Eastern History

 Rosie Bsheer

  Columbia University

The hundredth–year anniversary of the 1902 conquest of Riyadh by the founder of the modern Saudi Arabian state has triggered major initiatives since the mid-1990s to materialize the country’s nascent history. The attendant multi-billion dollar archival and urban redevelopment projects were among the many efforts to institutionalize and memorialize an officially sanctioned discourse of the Saudi past. The elision of oil—and the multi-pronged struggles that make up its social life—from the new material record and built environment is striking. Why is oil, so pervasive in our imaginations of Saudi Arabia, so absent in the new cultural and urban landscapes? How can we address the ways in which producers of historical knowledge have actively relegated oil to matters of production and wealth, as a platform for understanding how the political economy of oil has co-constituted political, economic, and social life in Saudi Arabia? In this talk, I pursue such questions by attending to the material politics of a project of history making and the disaggregated nature of the struggle over the constitution of Saudi Arabian state and society. I show how the commemoration of the national self-fashioning in everyday life and the emergent spatial politics that saturate the Saudi population’s national consciousness are thus deployed today to reproduce the power of the state and project a disciplined future, and by extension, a disciplined Saudi citizen.

For more information, call 845-758-7296, or e-mail moynahan@bard.edu.

Time: 4:45 pm

Location: RKC 103