In this talk Farah Al-Nakib will discuss her recently released book Kuwait Transformed: A History of Oil and Urban Life (Stanford University Press, 2016), in which she traces the relationships between the urban landscape, patterns and practices of everyday life, and social behaviors and relations in Kuwait, from its settlement in 1716 through the bridge of oil discovery to the twenty-first century. The history that emerges reveals how decades of urban planning, suburbanization, and privatization have eroded an open, tolerant society and given rise to the insularity, xenophobia, and divisiveness that characterize Kuwaiti social relations today. However, over the past decade several social forces and youth-based movements—from political protesters to architects and small entrepreneurs—have been staking claims to the city and demanding a different kind of urban experience. Beyond simply reviving the declined urban center, Al-Nakib argues, their efforts have the potential to restore Kuwaiti society’s lost urbanity.
Farah Al-Nakib is Assistant Professor of History and Director of the Center for Gulf Studies at the American University of Kuwait. She obtained her PhD (2011) and MA (2006) in history from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. Her research primarily focuses on the urban history of Kuwait City before and after oil, on which she has written her first book. She also writes about memory and forgetting in relation to the built environment. Her latest research analyzes the 1990-91 Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait from a social historical perspective. Al-Nakib is currently a Carnegie Centennial Fellow at American University in Washington, DC. She is also a co-editor of Jadaliyya’s Cities Page.