The Persian Gulf has long been a contested space—an object of imperial ambitions, national antagonisms, and migratory dreams. The roots of these contestations lie in the different ways the Gulf has been defined as a region, both by those who live there and those beyond its shore. Making Space for the Gulf reveals how capitalism, empire-building, geopolitics, and urbanism have each shaped understandings of the region over the last two centuries. Here, the Gulf comes into view as a created space, encompassing dynamic social relations and competing interests.
Arang Keshavarzian writes a new history of the region that places Iran, Iraq, and the Arabian Peninsula together within global processes. He connects moments more often treated as ruptures—the discovery of oil, the Iranian Revolution, the rise and decline of British empire, the emergence of American power—and crafts a narrative populated by a diverse range of people—migrants and ruling families, pearl-divers and star architects, striking taxi drivers and dethroned rulers, protectors of British India and stewards of globalized American universities. Tacking across geographic scales, Keshavarzian reveals how the Gulf has been globalized through transnational relations, regionalized as a geopolitical category, and cleaved along national divisions and social inequalities.
When understood as a process, not an object, the Persian Gulf reveals much about how regions and the world have been made in modern times. Making Space for the Gulf offers a fresh understanding of this globally consequential place.
About the author
Arang Keshavarzian is Associate Professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University. He is the author of Bazaar and State in Iran: Politics of the Tehran Marketplace (2007) and coeditor of Global 1979: Geographies and Histories of the Iranian Revolution (2021).
"As the Persian Gulf remains one of the world's most important economic and political theaters, this book is indispensable. Written with passion and grace, Making Space for the Gulf brings the region into focus. Arang Keshavarzian's limpid, precise prose renders the complexities of the region clear without losing nuance."
—Greg Grandin author of The End of the Myth
"A beautifully rendered and deeply perceptive account of the practices of power, place, bordering, and belonging. Making Space for the Gulf crosses registers from the broad and brutal sweep of geopolitical history to the intimate geographies of family and work, showing us that the Gulf is a world of a region that has shaped the whole world."
—Natasha Iskander author of Does Skill Make Us Human?
"Breaking with bounded conceptions of space and time, Making Space for the Gulf deftly traverses a wide range of histories and intellectual debates and demonstrates the complex connections that produce a region as a social space. A path-breaking book that challenges us to think differently about the Gulf and its place in the world."
—Adam Hanieh, author of Money, Markets, and Monarchies