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Spaceship in the Desert: Energy, Climate Change, and Urban Design in Abu Dhabi with author Gokce Gunel and discussant Deen Sharp

September 24th, 2020

12:00 P.M. ET

Via WebEx

In 2006 Abu Dhabi launched an ambitious project to construct the world’s first zero-carbon city: Masdar City. In Spaceship in the Desert Gökçe Günel examines the development and construction of Masdar City's renewable energy and clean technology infrastructures, providing an illuminating portrait of an international group of engineers, designers, and students who attempted to build a post-oil future in Abu Dhabi. While many of Masdar's initiatives—such as developing a new energy currency and a driverless rapid transit network—have stalled or not met expectations, Günel analyzes how these initiatives contributed to rendering the future a thinly disguised version of the fossil-fueled present. Spaceship in the Desert tells the story of Masdar, at once a “utopia” sponsored by the Emirati government, and a well-resourced company involving different actors who participated in the project, each with their own agendas and desires.

Gökçe Günel is Assistant Professor in Anthropology at Rice University. Her first book “Spaceship in the Desert: Energy, Climate Change and Urban Design in Abu Dhabi” (Duke University Press, 2019) examines the development and construction of Masdar City's renewable energy and clean technology infrastructures, providing an illuminating portrait of an international group of engineers, designers, and students who attempted to build a post-oil future in Abu Dhabi. Following her doctoral work at Cornell, Gökçe taught at Rice University, Columbia University, and the University of Arizona. Her articles have been published in Public Culture, Anthropological Quarterly, Engineering Studies, The Yearbook of Comparative Literature, Avery Review, Limn and PoLAR, among others.

Deen Sharp is an urban geographer and LSE Fellow in Human Geography whose research focuses on the political economy of urbanization in the “Middle East”. He was previously a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He holds a PhD in Earth Environmental Sciences (Geography Track) at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, a MSc in International Politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and BA in Human Geography from Queen Mary University.

He is the co-editor of Beyond the Square: Urbanism and the Arab Uprisings (Urban Research: 2016) and Open Gaza (University in Cairo Press: In Print). His most recent journal article “Difference as practice: Diffracting geography and the area studies turn” was published in Progress in Human Geography. Sharp’s doctoral dissertation focuses on the corporation and urban development in the Eastern Mediterranean.

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