Friends and acquaintances often think that professors like me have our summers “off.” But those of us who have these sorts of jobs know that while we’re often not teaching during the summer, there are many other things to keep us extremely busy. I used my time this summer to carry several of my research/writing projects to conclusion, to prepare for my Fall semester courses, and to get a few things done around my new house. I’ll describe a few of those research/writing projects here.
First, during my two years teaching at Qatar University (2008-2010), I became good friends with sociologist Ali Al-Shawi. Ali and I recently published a collaborative paper entitled “Tribalism, Identity and Citizenship in Contemporary Qatar” in the journal Anthropology of the Middle East. The paper combines Dr. Al-Shawi’s quantitative exploration of tribalism in Qatar with my qualitative ethnographic assessment. We certainly agree that tribes and tribalism are amidst a resurgence in the region, and our paper points to how this form of belonging — one that’s unfamiliar to most of us in the world today — is very much in cadence with the political/economic structure of the contemporary Qatari state. Our analysis is reinforced by the fact that Dr. Al-Shawi is a member of the Al-Murrah tribe, Qatar’s largest bedouin tribe (and the tribe that anthropologist Donald Cole referred to as the “nomads of the nomads“). Both Ali and I are excited about our publication.
Second, I also published a book chapter entitled “How the City Grows: Urban Growth and Challenges to Sustainable Development in Doha, Qatar.” That chapter is one of many in the new book Sustainable Development: An Appraisal from the Gulf Region, edited by my friend and former colleague Paul Sillitoe (Durham University). In that chapter, I assess the role and impact of the idea of ‘sustainable development’ on urbanization and urban growth in Doha, Qatar. More specifically, I point to several challenging problems for the implementation of a more sustainable form of development on the Qatari peninsula. First, I sketch the political economy of urban development in Doha, and contend that urban development is an essential feature in the transfer of state-controlled hydrocarbon wealth to the Qatari citizenry. Second, I briefly interrogate how sustainable development might work in a tribal-authoritarian society like Qatar. And finally, I note that efforts at sustainable development in Qatar fall into the predominant spatial discourse of urban development there. In that spatial discourse, sustainability is something consigned to particular zones, tracts, and developments in the urban landscape. Collectively, these three points comprise a fairly critical assessment of sustainability’s implementation in Qatar.
I have a few other publications in the pipeline, but I’ll announce them here when the time is appropriate. In addition to these projects, however, I also worked closely with two undergraduate research assistants over the summer. Elena Becker, a sophomore at the University of Puget Sound, helped me immensely with the first draft of another article I’m working on. She was also essential in helping me finish an encyclopedia entry I was asked to pen about Qatar’s Sheikha Moza. Carolynn Hammen, a junior in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, helped me with another project. Looking at all of seven of the Gulf States, she assembled a list of the zones, spaces, and developments that result from the urban spatial discourse of development that my recent work delineates. It’s been great working with both of these students, and I’m excited to see their own ideas blossom in the coming years of coursework and study abroad.
So those were a couple of the things I worked on during my summer “off.”