Geographical Theory in, of, and from the Middle East II

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups:
Poster #:
Day: 4/6/2020
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Governors Square 9, Sheraton, Concourse Level
Organizers: Mohammed Arefin, Danya Al-Saleh
Chairs: Timur Hammond


Over the past few years, geographers working in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have grappled with the absent presence of the region in the production of geographical theory. In the aftermath of September 11th and the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, the region figured prominently in disciplinary-wide discussions about the contemporary nature of US imperialism (Harvey 2003; Smith 2005), warfare (Gregory 2008, 2014), borders (Agnew 2007; Elden 2009), and global capitalism (Roberts 2014; Cowen and Smith 2009; Cowen 2014). Often, however, the scholarship of geographers who have conducted grounded research in the region is relegated to the margins of these broader theoretical debates (Sharp 2018). In a recent discussion of this discrepancy between Middle East geographers whose contributions are implicitly regarded as empirically based ‘in’ the region versus geographers who produce geographical theory ‘of’ the region, Mona Atia argued: “We [geographers working in the Middle East] are not permitted to theorize from the region” (Al-Saleh and Bhungalia, AAG Washington, DC 2019).

While important theories of capital, empire, logistics, infrastructure, and the body have been formulated through engagements in and of the Middle East, we ask: what would it mean to theorize from the region? We aim to showcase the variety of approaches and models that theorizing ‘from’ the region can take in feminist, economic, political, urban, and cultural geography. We understand theorizing ‘from’ the region to be “attending and responding to the effects of difference, rather than merely representing it” (Sharp 2019: 12). In doing so, this joint session brings the Middle East into the broader context of debates on provincializing theory (Sheppard 2013; Derickson 2015), theorizing from the South (Robinson 2002; Roy 2009; Sheppard et al 2013; Chari 2016; Jazeel 2016) and situated urban political ecology (Lawhon et al. 2014).

In this two-part session—comprised of a paper session and panel discussion—we bring together geographers to reflect on “new ways of forging commitments, connections, and geographical knowledge” (Sharp 2019: 12) with a specific focus on the production of geographic theory. We invite both established scholars in the field and early career researchers to reflect on how their work engages with and produces new geographic theory.

The paper session will build on the panel discussion with presentations from early career researchers who value empirically grounded work which informs a serious and innovative engagement with geographic theories and concepts. These may include, but are not limited to:

• Settler Colonial Geographies
• Intellectual histories and futures of Middle East Studies and Geography
• Infrastructural Geographies
• Geohumanities
• Energy Geographies
• Queer and Feminist Geographies
• Situated Political Ecologies from the Middle East
• Geopolitical Ecologies
• Feminist, Embodied, and Transnational Geopolitics of War and Migration


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Introduction Timur Hammond Syracuse University 5 4:40 PM
Presenter Michael Ernst*, NYU, Mohammed Rafi Arefin, NYU, Narrative Dissonance and Infrastructural Discontent in Sonallah Ibrahim’s "Zaat" 12 4:45 PM
Presenter Deen Sharp*, CUNY GC, Capitalizing Urbanization in the Corporate Middle East 12 4:57 PM
Presenter Brittany Cook*, University of Lousiana at Lafayette, Thinking through feminisms from the region 12 5:09 PM
Presenter Ali Hamdan*, The George Washington University, War’s Many Geographies: Provincializing the Everywhere War in Syria 12 5:21 PM
Presenter Aya Nassar*, University of Durham, Geopoetics of the postcolony: The elemental geographies of Cairo 12 5:33 PM
Discussant Timur Hammond Syracuse University 10 5:45 PM

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