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Spaceship in the Desert
by Gökçe Günel

After development of Masdar was halted in 2011, the world's first zero-carbon city was prounounced a failure by the media—as the first green ghost town. Anthropologist Gökçe Günel wanted to understand what else was happening there.

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Spaceship in the Desert: Energy, Climate Change, and Urban Design in Abu Dhabi

'Spaceship in the Desert: Energy, Climate Change, and Urban Design in Abu Dhabi' book cover

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Gökçe Günel
Duke University Press
March 2019

Gökçe Günel is Assistant Professor in Anthropology at Rice University. Her first book Spaceship in the Desert: Energy, Climate Change, and Urban Design in Abu Dhabi (Duke University Press, 2019) examines the development and construction of Masdar City's renewable energy and clean technology infrastructures, providing an illuminating portrait of an international group of engineers, designers, and students who attempted to build a post-oil future in Abu Dhabi.

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Gökçe Günel recommends

Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil

Timothy Mitchell

Oil is a curse, it is often said, that condemns the countries producing it to an existence defined by war, corruption and enormous inequality. Carbon Democracy tells a more complex story, arguing that no nation escapes the political consequences of our collective dependence on oil. It shapes the body politic both in regions such as the Middle East, which rely upon revenues from oil production, and in the places that have the greatest demand for energy.

Spaceship Earth in the Environmental Age, 1960–1990

Sabine Höhler

Sabine Höhler's book analyzes the emergence of technocractic thinking about the environment during the Cold War era. With the metaphor of Spaceship Earth, humans, mainly in the West, began to see earth as an external, enclosed object awaiting human management. While this kind of thinking recognized that resources were limited, it also overemphasized human's capacity to administer resources in the appropriate manner. Interestingly, according to Höhler, the idea of Spaceship Earth collapsed with the end of the Cold War. This book has been invaluable in helping me historicize the work towards building a "spaceship in the desert," demonstrating how the producers of Masdar City seek to extend this technocractic conception of the planet.

In the Time of Oil: Piety, Memory, and Social Life in an Omani Town

Mandana E. Limbert

Before the discovery of oil in the late 1960s, Oman was one of the poorest countries in the world, with only six kilometers of paved roads and one hospital. By the late 1970s, all that had changed as Oman used its new oil wealth to build a modern infrastructure. In the Time of Oil describes how people in Bahla, an oasis town in the interior of Oman, experienced this dramatic transformation following the discovery of oil, and how they now grapple with the prospect of this resource's future depletion.