Conferred at the Middle East Studies Association Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado on November 17, 2012
2012 Dissertation Award
In Recognition of Exceptional Scholarship, The Association for Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Studies Conferred its Inaugural Award for Best Dissertation 2012 to:
School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
"Kuwait City: Urbanisation, The Built Environment, and the Urban Experience Before and After Oil (1716-1986)"
The awards committee has chosen “Labor in a Global City" as the AGAPS best graduate student paper. Its thesis is that Dubai is not very different from other global cities such as London, Miami, or Singapore. Envisioning such cities as global economic nodes, the author argues that global “city-ness” can usefully be analyzed in broader terms that include their role as destinations for labor trafficking and the practical mechanisms of labor exploitation, although looking only at this particular example. The author discusses the origin and destination of migrant labor as a two-way relationship between different worlds, in this case, viewed from the perspectives of Emiratis and skilled as well as unskilled guest workers from South Asia. Labor migration constitutes one of the engines driving globalization, creating differently structured dependency relationships in sending and receiving countries. The author ends with a provocative look at the impact of the Arab Spring on Dubai’s future as a global city:
[I]f Dubai becomes more “global” politically (in the sense of the democratization pressures associated with the Arab Spring) it might become less global culturally (in terms of the percentage of expatriates in its workforce). But there are more inclusive visions of the “global city,” represented both in migrant workers protests, and the pro-democracy activism of Emiratis . . . . For . . . these reasons, the position of South Asian guest workers in Dubai is both exceptional and reflective of globalizing cities in general, seen from above and from below.
2012 Graduate Student Paper Award
History, Wayne State University
"Labor in a Global City: South Asian Guest Workers in Dubai, 1968-2008"
We were blessed with excellent candidates for this prize and it was difficult to choose only one among a very strong cohort. Our decision is to award the AGAPS dissertation prize to Farah al-Nakib for “Kuwait City: Urbanisation, the Built Environment, and the Urban Experience Before and After Oil (1716-1986).” In addition to the fact that it is wonderfully written and carefully argued, we appreciated the way this dissertation comprises a major intervention in HOW we think about the Arabian Gulf cities and, more specifically, how we conceptualize their modernity and history. Farah does an excellent job articulating and placing this fundamental contention in the existing literature on urbanization, urbanism, and history in the GCC. She makes appropriate ties to scholarly literature that looks from the contemporary era back to analyses from decades ago, and finds grounding as well in the larger literature on cities. All add depth to her critique of the idea of the "two Kuwaits," i.e., before and after oil." Farah’s examinations of configurations and utilization of space — who is where, when, and what they did or are doing — is key to revealing how authority is expressed in the built environment. Her analysis of the activities of Kuwaiti rulers, merchants, and citizens as reflected in the changing shape and layout of the city and how it configures human relationships stands with Lisa Jardine's work on medieval and Renaissance tapestries, and Eric Wolf's on hegemony. The dissertation’s methodological sophistication, its engaging prose, and its many illustrations, all add to to its importance as a contribution to what we know about the Gulf.