Accepted paper:

The spatial afterlives of revolution: a postconflict petrocarbon city in Oman


Alice Wilson (University of Sussex)

Paper short abstract:

Oil wealth and postconflict politics reshape urban space. Both have reinforced spatial segregation in Salalah, Oman, cementing the government's victory over the Dhufar region's defeated revolution. Yet postwar spatial tensions contribute to the lingering afterlives of Dhufar's silenced revolution.

Paper long abstract:

Urban environments embody changing political and economic agendas, as the work of anthropologists and human geographers has shown in explorations of space and temporality during political and economic transformations. In cities across the Middle East, petrocarbon wealth has reworked spatial segregation and inequalities. In turn, postconflict urban development has constructed official narratives about a conflict's winners and losers, and about visions for the future. But how do the intersecting effects of oil wealth in combination with postconflict political imperatives affect and rework urban space? In the southern Omani city of Salalah, where in 1975 the Omani government won a counterinsurgency war against the Dhufar region's Marxist revolutionaries, petrocarbon-fuelled economic opportunities and postconflict political imperatives initially intersected to rework and reinforce sociospatial hierarchies and segregation. Oil wealth facilitated the distribution of land and housing that helped orchestrate postconflict governing strategies of divide and rule. Nevertheless, as the availability of public subsidies and suitable land has decreased, the sustainability of Salalah's post-1975 political and economic spatial logics has grown more uncertain. It is no longer so clear that urban space marks the government's oil-era largesse, its victory over Dhufar's former insurgents, and official silence about the defeated revolution. Some of Salalans' alternative experiences of space produce lingering afterlives of Dhufar's defeated revolution - pointing towards a counterhistory of defeated revolution and postconflict, petrocarbon urban space.

panel B02
Geographies and anthropologies of the state: places, persons and nonhumans