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Harvard CMES: Archive Wars – The Politics of History in Saudi Arabia by Rosie Bsheer
October 20 @ 12:00 - 13:30
The Center for Middle Eastern Studies and the Department of History
present a discussion of
Archive Wars: The Politics of History in Saudi Arabia
by Rosie Bsheer (Assistant Professor of History, Harvard University)
The production of history is premised on the selective erasure of certain pasts and the artifacts that stand witness to them. From the elision of archival documents to the demolition of sacred and secular spaces, each act of destruction is also an act of state building. Following the 1991 Gulf War, political elites in Saudi Arabia pursued these dual projects of historical commemoration and state formation with greater fervor to enforce their postwar vision for state, nation, and economy. Seeing Islamist movements as the leading threat to state power, they sought to de-center religion from educational, cultural, and spatial policies. In Archive Wars: The Politics of History in Saudi Arabia (Stanford University Press, 2020), Rosie Bsheer 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.
Discussants: Beshara Doumani, Mahmoud Darwish Professor of Palestinian Studies, Professor of History, Brown University; Eve M. Trout-Powell, Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania; and Kirsten A. Weld, Professor of History, Harvard University
Moderator: Durba Mitra, Assistant Professor, Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality; Carol K. Pforzheimer Assistant Professor, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University
Tuesday, October 20, 2020 || 12:00 to 1:30 pm ET
Online webinar; please register at https://bit.ly/3cHEues