The Center for Gulf Studies at the American University of Kuwait announces the inauguration of its Gulf
Studies Symposium (GSS) in 2013. The CGS is planning to hold this new symposium on an annual basis
in Kuwait, with the objective of becoming the first yearly meeting of worldwide Gulf scholars and
researchers held within the region and organized by a Gulf-based academic institution. Each annual
meeting will be based on a particular scholarly theme that is timely both to the region and to the field
of Gulf studies. Each symposium will also consist of a special panel relating directly to higher and/or
liberal arts education in the Gulf within the contours of the symposium theme. The first GSS will be
held on 22-24 March 2013 (arrival March 21 and departure March 25), on the theme "Gulf Cities:
Space, Society, Culture".
The Gulf region (including the GCC states, Iraq, and Iran) ranks among the most urbanized in the world,
with an average of 84% percent of the population living in urban areas (this figure increases to 91%
excluding Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran). Despite this distinctly urban identity, academic studies on Gulf
urbanism and urbanization are relatively new to the literature of both Gulf studies and worldwide
urban studies. Gulf cities have recently started attracting the scholarly attention of historians,
anthropologists, geographers, political scientists, and others, just as they have been capturing the
imagination and interest of the world at large - from investors and real estate developers to tourists,
consumers, and sports enthusiasts. While spatial contexts and dynamics are increasingly incorporated
into analyses of transnationalism, globalization, migration, and national and cultural identity
formation in the region, the Gulf city itself is also becoming a subject of scholarly interest, with topics
like city formation, spectacular architecture, heritage production, and city branding becoming popular
subjects of inquiry.
CALL FOR PAPERS
The objective of the 2013 Gulf Studies Symposium is to draw attention to this new, exciting, and varied
research on Gulf cities, and to provide historians, ethnographers, architects, theorists, and other
researchers a chance to engage in an inter-disciplinary dialogue on diverse issues related to urbanism
and urbanization in the Gulf. We aim to bring together local, regional, and international scholars to
participate in this forum. We also encourage scholars who have not yet turned their attention to the
urban context to reexamine their existing work on the Gulf from an urban and/or spatial perspective.
The main themes we would like to explore during this symposium include:
- Architecture, urban design, planning, and sustainability
- Dynamics of public/private spaces and spheres
- Gulf cities as transnational hubs
- Spaces, boundaries, and practices of political contestation, violence, or dissent
- Spaces, boundaries, and practices of socio-political exclusion (including gendered spaces)
- Museums and sites of national heritage
- City images and branding urban identities
We also welcome papers that explore the overlaps between these themes, which do not necessarily
represent separate panels. Papers on topics not listed above will also be considered provided they
contribute to the overall objectives of the symposium.
Special panel on higher education:
We also invite paper proposals for a special panel session on the proliferation and role of "education
cities" and designated spaces of higher learning in the Gulf.
There will be two moderated roundtable discussions in which all conference participants are invited to
take part, on the following themes:
- Exporting the Gulf urban model
- Theorizing the Gulf city
Instructions and deadlines:
Submissions should be sent by E-mail to Farah Al-Nakib (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Ramzi El Houry
(email@example.com) by 15 September 2012. Please include your name, professional title, and
institutional affiliation in the body of the E-mail, and attach your paper title and 400-word abstract as
a Word document. Abstracts should clearly relate to the general symposium theme and should give
some indication of sources and methodology.
15 September 2012: Deadline for submissions
15 October 2012: Notification of accepted submissions
15 February 2013: Submission of full paper for circulation
21 March 2013: Arrival in Kuwait
22-24 March 2013: Symposium
25 March 2013: Departure from Kuwait
The CGS will cover the cost of airfare to and accommodation in Kuwait.
The Gulf region ranks among the most urbanized in the world, with an average of 84% percent of the population
living in urban areas (this figure increases to 91% excluding Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran). Furthermore, the
cities of the Arab Gulf coast - though not normally counted among the world's major metropolises in terms of
population size - are currently setting global benchmarks in urban growth rates and city development projects.
The region's distinctly urban identity is hardly a new phenomenon. For centuries before the advent of oil the
coasts of both sides of the Gulf waters were dotted with prosperous port cities that served as vital entrepôt
and transnational hubs within the Indian Ocean trading network. These ports were cosmopolitan centers of
human contact and cultural exchange, much like the Gulf's skyscraper cities of the 21st century.
And yet, academic studies on Gulf urbanism and urbanization are relatively new to the literature of both Gulf
studies and worldwide urban studies. Gulf cities have only recently started attracting the scholarly attention
of historians, anthropologists, geographers, political scientists, architects, and others, just as they have been
capturing the imagination and interest of the world at large - from investors and real estate developers to
tourists, consumers, and sports enthusiasts. While spatial contexts and dynamics are increasingly incorporated
into analyses of transnationalism, globalization, migration, and national and cultural identity formation in the
region, the Gulf city itself is also becoming a subject of scholarly interest, with topics like city formation, the
political economy of urban development, spatial politics, spectacular architecture, heritage production, and
city branding becoming popular subjects of inquiry.
The objective of AUK's inaugural Gulf Studies Symposium is to draw attention to this new, exciting, and varied
research on Gulf cities, and to cultivate an inter-disciplinary dialogue on diverse issues related to urbanism
and urbanization in the Gulf and Arabian peninsula (including the GCC states, Iran, Iraq, and Yemen). This
three-day symposium brings together leading local, regional, and international scholars presenting current
and innovative research on the space, society, and culture of Gulf cities.
The Gulf Studies Symposium is open to the public, though you must register in advance to attend as seating is
limited. To register, please go to: www.auk.edu.kw/cgs/gss
The GSS will take place in the AUK Auditorium (Liberal Arts Building).
| DAY 1: FRIDAY, MARCH 22
9:30-10:30 am: Keynote Speech: Dr. Nelida Fuccaro (School of Oriental and African Studies)
SESSION 1: GULF CITIES
10:30 am-12:30 pm: Gulf Cities in History
||This panel highlights the international significance of Gulf port cities before oil by examining their historic position within regional and global trading networks, labor and property markets, and transnational migration flows, offering a unique longue durée perspective to Gulf urbanism.
Chair: Mark Speece (AUK) / Discussant: Gholamreza Vatandoust (AUK)
- Lawrence Potter (Columbia University), "The Rise and Fall of Port Cities in the Persian Gulf
- Isa Blumi (Georgia State University), "A Relational History and the Emergence of Modern Gulf Urban Politics, 1855-1907"
- Matthew Hopper (California Polytechnic State University), "Globalization, Trade, and Labor in Nineteenth Century Muscat and Basra"
- Fahad Bishara (Harvard University), "Where the Land Met the Sea: Debt, Capitalism, and the Transformation of the Gulf and Indian Ocean, c. 1800-1900"
|12:30-1:30 pm: Lunch
1:30-2 pm: Special presentation by Rob Carter (University College London, Qatar), "The Origins of the Gulf Towns"
2-3:30 pm: The Politics of Urban Development
||This panel analyzes the various political and economic structures, agents, and technologies of power that have underpinned the planning and development of Gulf cities from the advent of oil until today, making new theoretical interventions in the bourgeoning discourse of Gulf urbanization.
Chair: Nizar Hamzeh (AUK) / Discussant: Farah Al-Nakib (AUK)
- Michael Herb (Georgia State University), "The Urban Growth Machine in Gulf Cities"
- Ala Al-Hamarneh (University of Mainz), "Corporate Transit City? Re-Thinking Urban Governmentality in Gulf Cities"
- Omar AlShehabi (GUST, Kuwait), "Rootless Cities: Migration, Citizenship and Urban Commodification in the GCC"
|3:30-3:45 pm: Coffee Break
3:45-5:15 pm: The "Other" City
||This panel considers the experiences of Gulf cities that were relatively excluded (in some cases until only recently) from major state-led oil modernization processes, and examines these cities' more recent transformations alongside their changing relationships with neighboring cities.
Chair: George Irani (AUK) / Discussant: Hesham Al-Awadi (AUK)
- Sebastian Maisel (Grand Valley State University), "The Limits of Urban Development in Qatif"
- Marc Valeri (University of Exeter), "The Sohar Paradox and the 'Omani Spring': The Transformation of a Provincial Town into an Industrial Hub"
- Victoria Hightower (North Georgia College and State University) "The Rhetorical Relationship of Abu Dhabi and Al-Ain, UAE"
| DAY 2: SATURDAY, MARCH 23
|SESSION 2: SPACE
9-10 am: Spaces of Higher Education
||This panel contributes an interesting spatial analysis to the increasingly popular scholarly subject of higher education in the Gulf by examining the role of the college campus as both a social space of everyday experience and as a globalized space of transnational labor migration.
Chair: Kathryn Kleypas (AUK) / Discussant: Christopher Ohan (AUK)
- Mary Ann Tétreault (Trinity University), "Leaving Home? University Education in the Gulf"
- Neha Vora (Lafayette College), "Knowledge Economies as 'Expert Camps': Toward a New Ethnography of Labor Migration in the Gulf"
|10-11 am: Making and Using Public Space
||This panel examines the creation, use, and management of urban spaces regularly considered "public"—namely parks, streets, and squares—and their historic and contemporary place in the Gulf city as expressions of nature, celebration, and (on occasion) violence.
Chair: Rafiq Bhuyan (AUK) / Discussant: Pellegrino Luciano (AUK)
- Asseel Al-Ragam (Kuwait University) and Sandra Al-Saleh (Equilibrium, Kuwait), "Dis-Located Expressions of Nature: Kuwait and its Public Parks"
- Ulrike Freitag (Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin), "Contestations of Urban Space: The Case of Historical Jeddah"
|11-11:15 am: Coffee Break
11:15-1:15 pm: Rethinking Residential Spaces
||This panel takes a multi-disciplinary approach to re-examining residential spaces in Gulf cities and the social experiences and relationships engendered by the architecture, planning, and governance of neighborhoods (historic inner-city districts, modern suburbs, and gated compounds).
Chair: Mohammed Satti (AUK) / Discussant: Rawda Awwad (AUK)
- Muhannad Albaqshi (Kuwait University), "Alternatives to Kuwait's Suburban Life"
- Marike Bontenbal (German University of Technology in Oman), "Residential Satisfaction and Place Identity in Gulf Cities' Traditional Neighborhoods: The Case of Mutrah, Oman"
- Stefan Tobias Maneval (Freie Universität, Berlin), "The Architecture of Private Space in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia"
- Zia Salim (San Diego State University), "Spaces for Transnationals: Housing Compounds in Bahrain"
|1:15-2:15 pm: Lunch
SESSION 3: SOCIETY
2:15-4:15 pm: Strategies of Urban Control
||This panel investigates the use of space in state strategies aimed at governing and controlling urban populations, including the construction of physical boundaries, the creation of spatial representations of
rule, and the militarization of space. The papers also address the social relations and everyday experiences produced and reproduced by these spatial tactics.
Chair: Raymond Farrin (AUK) / Discussant: Nelida Fuccaro (SOAS)
- Claudia Schroeder (Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin), "Building Fences and Crossing Lines: Governance, Oil, and Protest in Saudi Arabia, 1953-1956"
- Arbella Bet-Shlimon (Harvard University), "Space and Control in a Contested Gulf City: The Fight for Kirkuk since the 1950s"
- Ahmed Kanna (University of the Pacific), "A Toxic Mixture: Militarized and Ethnocratic Urbanism at the Intersection of Neoliberalism and the War on Terror"
- Mona Damluji (University of California, Berkley), "The Walls of Baghdad: The Spatial Normalization of Sectarian-Based Segregation"
|4:15-4:30 pm: Coffee break
4:30-6:30 pm: Artistic Practices in the City
||This panel analyzes how artistic practices in the city counteract prominent narratives of sectarianism in Gulf societies, reconfigure transnational migratory practices, and express political dissent. It also examines how states incorporate works of art into official strategies of urban reconstruction.
Chair: Sharon Lawrence (AUK) / Discussant: George Bauer (AUK)
- Caecilia Pieri (Institut Français du Proche-Orient, Beirut), "The Painted Blast Walls of Baghdad: Between Art and Alienation"
- Anahi Alviso-Marino (Université Paris 1-Sorbonne), "When Walls Talk: Political Dissent through Street Art in San'a, Yemen"
- Amin Mughadam (Université Lyon 2), "Iranian New Migratory and Transnational Trends in Dubai: The Case of Iranian Artistic Practices"
- Kristin Soraya Batmanghelichi (Columbia University), "Naked Modesty and the Reformation of Statues in Post-Revolutionary Iran"
| DAY 3: SUNDAY, MARCH 24
SESSION 4: CULTURE
9-10:30 am: Cultural Strategies of Urban Development
||This panel examines the "Bilbao effect" on Gulf cities-that is, the production of cultural projects like museums, theaters, and art galleries designed by "starchitects" targeting global audiences-and its implications for local societies and regional dynamics.
Chair: Hala Al-Najjar (AUK) / Discussant: William Anderson (AUK)
- Yasser Elsheshtawy (United Arab Emirates University), "Urban Development and Culture: The Case of Abu Dhabi"
- Katherine Hennessey (American Institute for Yemeni Studies, San'a), "All the World's a Stage Designed by Zaha Hadid: The Architecture, Economics, and Cultural Implications of the GCC's New Performance Spaces"
- Andreas Jozwiak (Trinity University), "Urban Development in Doha: The Museum of Islamic Art and the Msheireb Development Scheme"
|10:30-10:45 am: Coffee Break
10:45-12:15 pm: Official vs. Popular Identity Construction in Heritage
||This panel explores the tensions between dominant/state constructions of national identity and tradition as expressed in (often globalized) museums and sites of cultural heritage, on the one hand, and more popular and multi-faceted experiences and interpretations of social belonging/exclusion, on the other.
Chair: Lisa Urkevich (AUK) / Discussant: Ildiko Kaposi (AUK)
- Sarina Wakefield (Open University), "Abu Dhabi and Cosmopolitan Heritage"
- Kathryn King (Georgetown University, Qatar), "The Heart of Doha? The Narrative of Qatari National Identity Offered by the Msheireb Urban Development Project"
- Thomas DeGeorges (American University of Sharjah), "Challenging Sanctity: The Visitor's Quandary at Kuwaiti Museums Dedicated to the Iraqi Invasion and its Aftermath"
|12:15-12:45 pm: Special presentation by Marjorie Kelly (American University of Kuwait), "Public Art in the Gulf"
12:45-1:45 pm: Lunch
SESSION 5: ROUNDTABLES
1:45-2 pm: Film Screening - "These are the Trucial States" (1958)
2-3:30 pm: Roundtable 1 - The "Image-ability" of Gulf Cities
||This roundtable discussion addresses the role of the "image" in the making of modern Gulf cities. The presentations will explore two specific examples of image-making in particular geographic and temporal contexts (the UAE in the early oil period and Kuwait today), after which all participants will be invited to discuss and debate current themes related to the "image-ability" of Gulf cities such as identity formation, branding, and spectacular architecture.
Moderator: Caterina Sabbatini (Sciences Po/AUK)
- Todd Reisz (Yale University), "Project Trucial States: Foundational Images of the UAE"
- Roberto Fabbri (UNDP/Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah, Kuwait), "IconiCity: Seeking Identity by Building Iconic Architecture"
|3:30-5 pm: Roundtable 2 - Exporting the Gulf Urban Model
||This roundtable discussion addresses the diffusion of Gulf urbanity (commonly known as the "Dubai model" or "Dubai effect") on other Arab and global cities. After presentations on this topic in relation to Egypt and Yemen, the floor will be open to all participants to discuss whether there is an "exportable" Gulf urban model, and the effects of both direct intervention and indirect influence on the receiving cities and their societies.
Moderator: Ali Alraouf (Qatar University)
- Khaled Adham (United Arab Emirates University), "Modes of Urban Diffusion: The Gulf in Egypt"
- Stephen Steinbeiser (American Institute for Yemeni Studies, San'a), "The GCC in Yemen: Policies, Influence, Urban Space"
|5-5:15 pm: Closing Remarks: Farah Al-Nakib (AUK)
|The photo exhibition "Public Art in the Gulf" by Marjorie Kelly (AUK, photo-
grapher and curator) and Marcella Kulchitsky (AUK, exhibition designer)
will run from 22-24 March in the Liberal Arts Building lobby.
From 22-24 March 2013 the Center for Gulf Studies at the American University of Kuwait held a three-day Gulf Studies Symposium on the theme "Gulf Cities: Space, Society, Culture." According to the Director of the CGS, Dr. Farah Al-Nakib, in her opening remarks: "The Gulf region ranks among the most urbanized in the world, with an average of 84% of the population living in urban areas (which increases to 91% when excluding Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran). Furthermore, the cities of the Arab Gulf coast are currently setting global benchmarks in urban growth rates and city development projects. Given this distinctly urban identity, almost every aspect of Gulf society, culture, and politics can be analyzed and understood through the lens of the city." The objective of the GSS was to analyze Gulf cities from both their historic and present-day perspectives, and to include cities in areas historically, geographically, and culturally connected to the Arab Gulf coastal region: Iran, Iraq, Yemen, and the Red Sea region of Saudi Arabia.
The three-day symposium brought together a total of forty leading scholars from Kuwait, the Gulf and Middle East, Europe, the United Kingdom, and the United States to present current and innovative research on the space, society, and culture of Gulf cities. The opening keynote speech was given by Dr. Nelida Fuccaro from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, a pioneering historian of Gulf cities and author of the book City and State in the Persian Gulf: Manama Since 1800. Dr. Fuccaro analyzed the growth of the field of Gulf urban studies over the past several years, and argued that the burgeoning research on Gulf cities (as demonstrated by the high level of interest and participation in AUK's inaugural Gulf Studies Symposium on the subject) is helping to overturn the assumption that the rapidly-developing cities of this region are exceptional places that are difficult to understand or research. Dr. Fuccaro's assessment of the increasing maturity of this particular research field was confirmed during the next three days. Over the course of ten panels (consisting of two to four paper presentations each), two roundtable discussions (with two presentations each), and two special presentations, historians, anthropologists, political scientists, economists, architects, and other scholars engaged in a vibrant and rigorous interdisciplinary discussion on diverse issues related to urbanism and urbanization in the Gulf and Arabian peninsula.
The unique feature of this symposium was that it was interdisciplinary. The panels did not simply examine urbanization in the Gulf from a spatial or architectural perspective, but rather analyzed the production, use, and transformation of space in the Gulf from the pre-oil period until today in relation to various social, political, and cultural dynamics. The symposium covered many diverse topics-transnational migration, political economy, oppositional politics, social change, art, museums and theater, education-in all of which the city and urban space served as the referents for understanding how the Gulf functions and has changed over time. The papers showed that different actors and agents of city formation exist beyond simply state institutions, developers, and architects; artists, political protestors, and city residents all play important roles in shaping Gulf cities in ways that are starkly different from those presented in master plans. The various panel presentations and discussions gave Gulf cities the analytical depth they deserve by scratching below the surface of the region's spectacular new architectural projects and analyzing the social, political, and economic strategies and motivations that drive the regions fast-paced urbanization, and the ways in which the people who live in these cities (nationals and non-nationals) negotiate and/or transgress these strategies.
The first session on "Gulf Cities" included three panels: "Gulf Cities in History" highlighted the international significance of Gulf port cities before oil, "The Politics of Urban Development" analyzed the various political and economic structures, agents, and technologies of power that underpin the planning and development of Gulf cities, and "The 'Other' City" considered the recent transformations of cities that were relatively excluded from major state-led oil modernization processes, and their changing relationships with neighboring cities. The second session on "Space" consisted of three panels: "Spaces of Higher Education" examined the role of the college campus in the Gulf as both a social space of everyday experience and as a globalized space of transnational labor migration, "Making and Using Public Space" examined the creation, use, and management of urban spaces regularly considered "public" (namely parks, streets, and squares), and "Rethinking Residential Spaces" examined the social experiences and relationships engendered by the architecture, planning, and governance of neighborhoods (historic inner-city districts, modern suburbs, and gated compounds).
The two panels that made up the third session on "Society" dealt with "Strategies of Urban Control," which investigated the use of space in state strategies aimed at governing and controlling urban populations and the social relations and experiences produced by these spatial tactics, and "Artistic Practices in the City," which analyzed how artistic practices in the city counteract prominent narratives of sectarianism in Gulf societies and express political dissent, and how states incorporate works of art into official strategies of urban reconstruction. The last two panels in the session on "Culture" were on "Cultural Strategies of Urban Development" which examined the production of large-scale cultural projects like museums, theaters, and art galleries designed by "starchitects" for global audiences and its implications for local societies and regional dynamics, and "Official vs. Popular Identity Construction in Heritage," which explored the tensions between dominant/state constructions of national identity and tradition as expressed in museums and sites of cultural heritage, and more popular experiences and interpretations of social belonging/exclusion.
The Gulf Studies Symposium also consisted of two roundtable discussions. The first was on "The 'Image-ability' of Gulf Cities," which addressed the role of the "image" in the making of modern Gulf cities in relation to issues of identity formation, city branding, and spectacular architecture. The second was on "Exporting the Gulf Urban Model," which addressed the diffusion of Gulf urbanity (commonly known as the "Dubai model") on other Arab cities (specifically in Egypt and Yemen). There were also two special presentations given: one by Dr. Robert Carter on an archaeological project currently based in Qatar on "The Origins of the Gulf Towns," and the other by Dr. Marjorie Kelly on "Public Art in the Gulf," which was accompanied by a photo exhibition.
The symposium on "Gulf Cities" was closed with a concluding speech by Dr. Al-Nakib, in which she argued that Gulf cities, though experiencing a period of rapid growth and expansion, are in a state of urban crisis. Gulf societies' historic urban identity was defined by their cosmopolitanism, openness to difference, and tolerance of foreigners. Gulf societies today, however, are more exclusive, divided, and intolerant of outsiders and difference. She associated this with their estrangement from city-living over the past half century with the move to the suburbs, and the segregation of people of different backgrounds into separate residential areas and the division of daily functions (work, residence, leisure) into separate zones. She argued that the city is the place where people truly learn how to live with and be more accepting of difference. Dr. Al-Nakib concluded that in the Gulf a restoration of the right to the city and a more rich and diverse urban life-one where people are not segregated, and where work, residence, and leisure spaces are mixed, as in the pre-oil period-is vital for restoring the region's historic urbanity.
The inaugural Gulf Studies Symposium was extremely successful. In addition to being well attended by members of the public, the event's high academic caliber cultivated innovative scholarly discourse on the Gulf, fostered new research collaborations between top local and international scholars, and placed AUK in a leading position to help shape the research agenda on the Gulf region.
Dr. Al-Nakib would like to thank the following companies for their generous contributions to the 2013 Gulf Studies Symposium: Kuwait Projects Company - KIPCO (Holding), United Real Estate Company (lead contributor), Burgan Bank, and Gulf Insurance Group.
Dr. Winfred Thompson, AUK President
Dr. Nizar Hamzeh, AUK Provost and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences
Dr. Farah Al-Nakib, Director of the Center for Gulf Studies (CGS)
The keynote speaker, Dr. Nelida Fuccaro, School of Oriental and African Studies - University of London
Images from the Event
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