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Beyond Sand and Sea: History, Environment and Politics in the Arabian Peninsula

History 5810 - Fall 2020

Although today primarily associated with oil, the Arabian peninsula was for most of its history defined by water: its surrounding seas, its monsoon-driven winds, and its lack of water in its vast and forbidding interior deserts. As home to the major holy cities of Islam and a key source of global oil, the region has played an important role in the Western European and North American imagination. Despite being relatively sparsely populated, the peninsula hosts millions of believers each year on the annual Muslim pilgrimage and has been the site of major wars and military occupations by European, American, and other Middle Eastern countries for much of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries: an outpost of the Ottoman Empire, center of British colonialism and (at Aden) an axis of its global empire, location of Egypt's "Vietnam" (its long war in Yemen in the 1960s), the Gulf Wars I and II, the recent wars in Yemen, to name just a few of the major conflicts. Often depicted as unchanging until caught up by the influx of massive oil wealth, this region is frequently characterized as a place of contradictions: home to some of the world's largest skyscrapers and also the most inhospitable and largest sand desert in the world, known as "the Empty Quarter"; the location of crucial American allies and the home of al-Qa'eda founder `Usama Bin Laden. In this course, we will examine the development of the peninsula historically to understand these contradictory images. We will investigate changes in the following arenas: environment and society; colonial occupation; newly independent states; the demise and development of key economic sectors (pearling, shipping; agriculture; oil; finance; piracy); political regimes; resources such as water, oil, date palms; the growth of oil extraction infrastructure and its effects on the political regimes and societies in the region; the emergence of new Gulf cities; Islamic law; women's rights; human rights debates; religious and ethnic mi
Course Attributes: EN HBU HumBU ISAS HUMAS LCD

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Beyond Sand and Sea: History, Environment and Politics in the Arabian Peninsula
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