[R5886] Archive Wars: The Politics of History in Saudi Arabia

Created by Ahmed Dailami
Thursday, 10/08/20 01:30 pm


Saudi Arabia is currently in the midst of a self-induced reincarnation in which associations with Islam and Islamism have become more of an ideological liability than an asset for its state. Conducted with extraordinary levels of censorship, such a reincarnation is meant to portray the image of a modernizing liberal order that mirrors the mimetic fantasies of historical progress idealized by Anglo-American empires and their contemporary ideologues. Archive Wars is an insightful and empirically rich interdisciplinary account of the politics at the heart of such a project, which in fact was conceived in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War and centered at once on historicizing a national space, territorializing a secular national history, and refracting both through new modes of capital accumulation.

The production of history is premised on the selective erasure of certain pasts and the artefacts 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. Postwar 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. Archive Wars explores the increasing secularisation of the postwar Saudi state and how it manifested in assembling a national archive and reordering urban space in Riyadh and Mecca.






Beth Baron

Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;