As the students in my Political Ecology seminar already know, I’m in Abu Dhabi at the moment. I was asked to give a paper at a small conference/event entitled Boom Cities: Urban Development in the Arabian Peninsula. The conference convened a small group of diverse scholars (from anthropology, geography, middle east studies, urban planning, architecture, history, and more) to explore new directions in the analysis and understanding of the astonishing cities that have arisen on the Arabian Peninsula over the last few decades. My paper, entitled The Amalgamated City: Petroleum Wealth and Urban Space in Doha, Qatar, contends that there are recurring spatial patterns in many of these cities, a result of the confluence of indigenous social structures, the rentier state, urban planning, and the fetishization of a certain kind of modernity.
The conference was held at NYU Abu Dhabi‘s temporary campus. A new campus is under construction on an island near to the city center. As you may already know, NYU Abu Dhabi is a satellite/branch campus of the NYU campus in New York City.
In addition to giving this paper, I also found out that I had a new paper published yesterday in the British journal Anthropology Today. I spoke briefly about that paper — Rumour and Myth in the Labour Camps of Doha, Qatar — at our meeting with CSOC seniors at the beginning of the Fall semester. To make a long story short, the paper presents and analyses four of the urban legends that I heard (and collected) during my fieldwork in Qatar’s labor camps between 2008 and 2010. While I doubt many of the details of these urban legends are actually true, as stories they nonetheless reveal a lot about the lives, perspectives, experiences, and anxieties of the tens of thousands of men who migrate here in search of employment.
Tomorrow I’m off to Qatar to catch up with two of my ongoing research projects, and then I’ll be back in Tacoma before finals conclude.