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Karine Walther (Georgetown Qatar), Americans' Technological Empire in Arabia

Centre for Gulf Studies Virtual Seminar Series

Event details

When the first American oil developers arrived in the Arabian Gulf in the late 1920s, they built on the work of other Americans in the region who predated their arrival by several decades. Protestant missionaries from the Reformed Church of America had established themselves in the Arabian Gulf in 1889 and had used various forms of technology, including Western medicine, to advance their primary goal of converting Arabian Muslims. Although by and large, these missionaries failed to achieve this goal, American oil developers who followed on their footsteps in the 1930s used their network of contacts and adapted theirs methods and rhetoric to assert their own power in the region to great effect, a strategy that resulted in the forging of neo-imperial ties with Saudi Arabia. During and after World War II, as the United States government quickly understood the strategic value of the oil resources in the region, it too built on and adopted the strategy of missionaries and oil companies in relying on Western technology to reinforce American power and secure its interests in Saudi Arabia, framing their role as one that would bring progress and modernity to the kingdom. This talk examines the role that Western technology, in the forms of medicine, industrial development, agricultural training, and military weaponry and training, played in advancing American interests in Saudi Arabia in the period between 1889 and 1952, as differing groups of Americans helped forge the United States’ “special relationship” with the kingdom.


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