Aired October 4, 2021 at 6 pm
Spaceship in the Desert
Gökçe Günel, Assistant Professor in Anthropology, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Rice University
In 2006, Abu Dhabi launched an ambitious project to construct the world’s first “zero-carbon” city: Masdar City. This talk investigates the construction of renewable energy and clean technology infrastructures in oil-rich Abu Dhabi, as the era of abundant oil supplies slowly comes to an end. It explores the production of Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, and shows how the Masdar City project was instrumental for economic diversification in the United Arab Emirates, helping generate a “green” brand image. At the same time, it demonstrates how the renewable energy and clean technology infrastructures of Masdar City fueled an aspiration for the manageability of ecological problems, where business models and design solutions would contain and resolve climate change and energy scarcity without surrendering hope for increasing productivity and technological complexity. By focusing on iconic renewable energy and clean technology initiatives, this talk responds to the debates on whether Masdar City and its multiple infrastructures were successes or failures, and examines the potential of evolving projects.
Gökçe Günel is Assistant Professor in Anthropology at Rice University. Her latest book Spaceship in the Desert: Energy, Climate Change and Urban Design in Abu Dhabi (Duke University Press, 2019) focuses on the construction of renewable energy and clean technology infrastructures in the United Arab Emirates, more specifically concentrating on the Masdar City project. Dr. Günel finished her PhD in Anthropology at Cornell, and held positions at the University of Arizona and Columbia University. Her articles have been published in a wide-range of journals including Engineering Studies, Public Culture, Anthropological Quarterly, Avery Review, PoLAR, Log, e-flux, and South Atlantic Quarterly. In collaboration with Saiba Varma and Chika Watanabe, Dr. Günel co-authored “A Manifesto for Patchwork Ethnography” (2020).