CITIES OF SALT: SLOW VIOLENCE AND THE EMERGENCE OF ISLAMIC RADICALISM IN ABDEL RAHMAN MUNIF’S PETROFICTION

Abdul Rahman Munif’s quintet Cities of Salt sketches an image of the ecological destruction triggered by America’s oil-driven interference in the gulf region, which consequently became a triggering factor for the emergence of Islamic authoritarianism and political conflicts. The events of Cities of Salt start around the 1930s in the undisturbed environment of the oasis of Wadi al-Uyoun, destined to be devastated by the emergent oil industry, where Munif creates a parallel image of homogenous society which is also to be divided by a chasm that separates the beneficiaries from the uprooted masses. This article focuses on Munif’s depiction of the built environment which brings the two images of environment and society together. The vernacular architecture of Wadi al-Uyoun homes, built from its natural materials and by the collective efforts of its people, is also destroyed and replaced by constructions that neither belong to Wadi al-Uyoun’s natural environment nor reflect the identity of its people. Munif connects creatively two parallel shifts: the shift from an almost egalitarian community into a capitalist one and the shift from a spiritual Islamic society into a radically authoritarian Islamic state. This article aims at illustrating the enforced degradation of the inherited architectural identity and the demolition of the original urban fabric that reflected the ecological harmony for the sake of distorted architectural identity and imposed urban plans that reflect the new capitalist and authoritarian nature of the Gulf States.

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