Awards 2013

Conferred at the Middle East Studies Association Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana:

2013 Dissertation Award

Reem Alissa, University of California, Berkeley -  Architecture

The Association for Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Studies is very pleased to present its 2013 dissertation award to Reem Alissa for her work “Building for Oil: Corporate Colonialism, Nationalism and Urban Modernity in Ahmadi, 1946-1992.”

 “Building for Oil” is a creative, original, and conceptually rich consideration of the relationships between oil, space, and urban architectural planning in mid to late 20th century Kuwait.  Incisively written and deeply layered, Alissa introduces readers to a complex set of forces through which Ahmadi’s history was made. In arguing for understanding Ahmadi’s history as that of an “oil city” Alissa directs us to see from multiple angles. Ahmadi’s urban modernity was influenced in various measures by the character and desires of its inhabitants as well as its would-be inhabitants, by the top-down visions of oil companies, politicians, and “neoliberal” developers.  She incorporates Ahmadi as habitat and habitus as well as identifying particular persons, attitudes, practices, and events whose contributions were (and are) key to understanding how it has changed over time.

Alissa’s is a commanding demonstration of conceptual innovation and empirical rigor, and her accomplishment is striking. Her work breaks new ground for scholars of the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula by encouraging reflections on space, cities, design, architecture, how geographies are made historically, and the variety of social and political economic forces that produce the world we live.  As historians and social scientists embark on the critical work of rethinking why and how oil matters, Alissa adds a fascinating new dimension to a theoretical body of scholarship that WE might usefully call post-rentierism. “Building for Oil” productively and provocatively links what have for too long been disparate literatures on architecture, design, and the political economy of oil with careful ethnographic and oral history field-work.  As such, it is a pioneering work and a fitting recipient of the AGAPS dissertation award.

2013 Graduate Paper Prize

Matthew MacLean

The Association for Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Studies is very pleased to present its 2013 Graduate Paper Prize to Matthew MacLean for his paper “Locating and Describing Emirati State and Society: Ethnocracy, Wasta, Kinship, Biology, and Rentierism.”

While analyzing the ways in which Emirati state and society produce each other, MacLean relativizes the explanatory value of the rentier state theory. He shows in particular that oil revenues did not disempower citizens or prevent politicization, but were used by Emirati elites to create a vast ruling class whose power derived from its shared Emirati-ness. While engaging the literature on citizenship, kinship, and migration in the Gulf, MacLean elaborates an original argument on ethnocracy: kinship is built into the Emirati state as the effect of the assemblage of lineages, families, and citizens. This “kinship effect,” as potent as the aura created by assemblages of populations, territory, and disciplines, translates into specific mechanisms through which the internal and external borders of the Emirati ethnos are policed. Among these mechanisms are the usages of wasta (connection, social capital), the khulasat al-qaid (family book), the sunduq al-zawaj (marriage fund), and prenuptial genetic screenings.

MacLean’s arguments unsettle widespread assumptions about state-society relations, the influence of kinship, and the rentier state. His paper augurs well for the future of the study of the technologies of government and the power of infrastructures in the Arabian Peninsula. MacLean’s original voice and intellectual rigor make his paper a fitting recipient of the AGAPS graduate paper prize.