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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Petroleum's Promise: The Neo-colonial Imaginary of Oil Cities in the Modern Arabian Gulf

  • Author(s): Damluji, Mona
  • Advisor(s): AlSayyad, Nezar
  • et al.

Oil from the Arabian Gulf has made the modern world as we know it possible. This dissertation documents representations of urban modernity in oil-producing Gulf countries that emerged in the context of British controlled oil extraction during the twentieth century. With the success of national independence movements following World War I, British imperial authorities were compelled to invent new forms of colonial rule. This study examines the bold yet stumbling beginnings of British oil company public relations practices in the modern Arabian Gulf and the emergence of cooperative corporate and state efforts to use documentary film to project new national imaginaries to citizens of oil-producing countries. It shows how oil company sponsored films constructed an imaginary of cities that linked the promise of nation building and modernization in oil-producing states to the neo-colonial practice of oil extraction. By weaving together related histories of oil, urbanization, and cinema, this dissertation provides an account of the rise of British oil company public relations as linked to the modern urban development of oil company towns and capital cities in the Arabian Gulf. Focusing on documentaries made by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and Iraq Petroleum Company before 1958, this dissertation examines the oil city in cinema as the primary object of inquiry. Based on archival evidence and filmic analysis, this dissertation sheds light on how imperial power and oil extraction have shaped and been shaped by public relations practices in the modern Arabian Gulf.

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