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JADMAG Issue 1.1

JADMAG Issue 1.1 "Theorizing the Arabian Peninsula"

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Theorizing the Arabian Peninsula

Edited by Rosie Bsheer and John Warner

 

Despite the sophisticated, critical, and oft-politically engaged literature emerging from and about the Arabian Peninsula, the region remains marginalized, in multiple ways, within academic and popular analyses. Theorizing the Arabian Peninsula addresses the ways in which frameworks of knowledge production have not only obscured social realities there, but also contributed to their construction. While our roundtable contributors—Madawi Al-Rasheed, Adam Hanieh, Toby Jones, Nathalie Peutz, Neha Vora, and John Willis—approach this project from a number of different disciplinary perspectives and theoretical standpoints, several key themes surface from their critical engagements. Rethinking the relationship between oil and politics emerges as perhaps the preeminent concern, with rentier state theory coming under sustained critique.

In confronting the work that knowledge production does in the creation of structures of political domination and economic exploitation, we must remain attentive to the historical processes by which the “Middle East” has been constructed as a conceptual object of European and US imperialism and Cold War politics. The challenge for us, here, is to reconceptualize our objects of analysis to illuminate these power relations and the multiple ways in which they have effected far-reaching transformations of the political, cultural, and material infrastructures of everyday life in the Arabian Peninsula. Approaching knowledge, space, identity, economy, and the political as contested and historically constituted—as the contributors to this roundtable urge us to—thus serves to relocate the peninsula within broader circuits of power, capital, labor, migration, and religion, from which they have long been analytically severed.


 

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

 

Introduction

 

Introduction By The Editors: Theorizing the Arabian Peninsula, pg. 3

      By Rosie Bsheer and John Warner

 

Articles

 

Thinking Globally About Arabia, pg. 5

By Toby C. Jones

Knowledge in the Time of Oil, pg. 11

By Madawi Al-Rasheed

Capital and Labor in Gulf States: Bringing the Region Back In, pg. 15

By Adam Hanieh

Unpacking Knowledge Production and Consumption, pg. 21

By Neha Vora

Perspectives from the Margins of Arabia, pg. 24

Nathalie Peutz 

Writing Histories of the Arabian Peninsula or How to Narrate the Past of a (Non)Place, pg. 29

By John Willis

Towards a Critical Cartography of the Political in the Arabian Peninsula, pg. 34

By Ahmed Kanna

 

About the Authors

 

About the Authors, pg. 39

 

Pedagogical Resources

 

Resources, pg. 40

 

Introduction

Despite the sophisticated, critical, and oft-politically engaged literature emerging from and about the Arabian Peninsula, the region remains marginalized, in multiple ways, within academic and popular analyses. Theorizing the Arabian Peninsula addresses the ways in which frameworks of knowledge production have not only obscured social realities there, but also contributed to their construction. While our roundtable contributors approach this project from a number of different disciplinary perspectives and theoretical standpoints, several key themes surface from their critical engagements. Rethinking the relationship between oil and politics emerges as perhaps the preeminent concern, with rentier state theory coming under sustained critique. Adam Hanieh points out that this paradigm's “methodological nationalism” obscures the fundamental ways in which national oil wealth depends upon a global capitalist labor market. Toby Jones argues that the political struggles over the past several years make it abundantly clear that its inherent assumptions about distributive wealth and political apathy are severely misplaced. Neha Vora turns our attention to the interconnected forms of governance, both liberal and illiberal, that operate in “ethnocratic” societies by comparing Southern California and the Gulf states. The aspirational politics and social imaginaries of Yemeni Socotrans in Nathalie Peutz's piece, oriented as they are towards the cities of the Gulf rather than Aden or Sanaa, seem to insist upon a peninsular perspective, rather than one constrained by symbolic and material national boundaries. 

John Willis's focus on space as an analytic that problematizes both state and nation as the terminal loci of history helps us understand the ways in which conceptual objects such as “nation,” “tribe,” and “the Middle East” are generated at different historical junctures. Madawi Al-Rasheed’s piece disentangles the imperatives of petroleum development from historiography by attending not only to more complex local, regional, and transnational lived realities, but also to the ways in which oil wealth and authoritarian practices work to delimit those representations. Ahmed Kanna, employing a different but complimentary approach, addresses the banal technologies that mediate spatial imaginations, such as the map, as vectors through which to discern the material effects of such everyday practices. In confronting the work that knowledge production does in the creation of structures of political domination and economic exploitation, we must remain attentive to the historical processes by which the “Middle East” has been constructed as a conceptual object of European and US imperialism and Cold War politics. The challenge for us, here, is to reconceptualize our objects of analysis to illuminate these power relations and the multiple ways in which they have effected far-reaching transformations of the political, cultural, and material infrastructures of everyday life in the Arabian Peninsula. Approaching knowledge, space, identity, economy, and the political as contested and historically constituted—as the contributors to this roundtable urge us to—thus serves to relocate the peninsula within broader circuits of power, capital, labor, migration, and religion, from which they have long been analytically severed. 

For more information, go to the teaching guide.

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