Fahad Ahmad Bishra in Conversation with Rosie Bsheer
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Following the 1991 Gulf War, political elites in Saudi Arabia saw Islamist movements as the leading threat to state power, and accordingly, they sought to de-center religion from educational, cultural, and spatial policies. This book explores the increasing secularization of the postwar Saudi state and how it manifested in assembling a national archive and reordering urban space in Riyadh and Mecca. The elites’ project was rife with ironies: In Riyadh, they employed world-renowned experts to fashion an imagined history, while at the same time in Mecca they were overseeing the obliteration of a thousand-year-old topography and its replacement with commercial megaprojects. Archive Wars shows how the Saudi state’s response to the challenges of the Gulf War served to historicize a national space, territorialize a national history, and ultimately refract both through new modes of capital accumulation.
Fahad Ahmad Bishara is Rouhollah Ramazani Associate Professor of History at the University of Virginia. He specializes in Indian Ocean history and the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf Studies. He is the author of A Sea of Debt: Law and Economic Life in the Western Indian Ocean, 1780-1950 (Cambridge University Press, 2017).
Rosie Bsheer is a historian of the modern Middle East. Her teaching and research interests center on Arab intellectual and social movements, petro-capitalism and state formation, and the production of historical knowledge and commemorative spaces.