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Other titles in the Stanford Studies in Middle Eastern and Islamic Societies and Cultures series:
America's Kingdom: Mythmaking on the Saudi Oil Frontier (Stanford Studies in Middle Eastern and Islamic Societies and)by Robert Vitalis
Synopses & Reviews
Americas Kingdom debunks the many myths that now surround the United Statess “special relationship” with Saudi Arabia, or what is less reverently known as "the deal": oil for security. Taking aim at the long-held belief that the Arabian American Oil Company, ARAMCO, made miracles happen in the desert, Robert Vitalis shows that nothing could be further from the truth. What is true is that oil led the U.S. government to follow the company to the kingdom. Eisenhower agreed to train Ibn Sauds army, Kennedy sent jets to defend the kingdom, and Lyndon Johnson sold it missiles. Oil and ARAMCO quickly became Americas largest single overseas private enterprise.
Beginning with the establishment of a Jim Crow system in the Dhahran oil camps in the 1930s, the book goes on to examine the period of unrest in the 1950s and 1960s when workers challenged the racial hierarchy of the ARAMCO camps while a small cadre of progressive Saudis challenged the hierarchy of the international oil market. The defeat of these groups led to the consolidation of Americas Kingdom under the House of Fahd, the royal faction that still rules today.
This is a gripping story that covers more than seventy years, three continents, and an engrossing cast of characters. Informed by first hand accounts from ARAMCO employees and top U.S. government officials, this book offers the true story of the events on the Saudi oil fields. After Americas Kingdom, mythmakers will have to work harder on their tales about ARAMCO being magical, honorable, selfless, and enlightened.
Book News Annotation:
In telling the story of the Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO) in Saudi Arabia, Vitalis (political science, U. of Pennsylvania) takes aim at a number of myths of exceptionalism he finds common to earlier narratives such as the PBS documentary The Prize and Thomas Lippman's Inside the Mirage. These include the idea that ARAMCO was less exploitive than, say, mining companies in Africa and the idea that Saudi Arabia developed in relative international isolation and represents a relatively unique case in the history of extractive economies. His discussion looks how ARAMCO officials set up a system of social hierarchy similar to Jim Crow or Apartheid in the oil town of Dhahran, explores the Saudi workers' challenges to this system of hierarchy and to their economic exploitation, and parallel challenges to the international oil hierarchy represented by ARAMCO from progressive state-building forces in the Saudi government. Annotation ©2007 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Examination of U.S.-Saudi relations, the development of the oil frontier, and the enduring legacy of racial segregation at the Aramco camps.
"Vitalis takes a revisionist look at U.S. corporate involvement in the founding of Saudi ARAMCO (the Saudi's took control of the firm in 1980) and ARAMCOís racial hierarchies, which are similar to those existing in the oil and minefields of the United States. While ostensibly writing a work of political science, Vitalis has crafted a narrative that fits in well with the recent trend of giving U.S. history international context." —Library Journal
“A brilliant, original, and stimulating book,America's Kingdom rewrites the history of America's relationship with Saudi Arabia. Placing the relationship in a wider context of U.S. business interests abroad, Vitalis offers a radically new view of the motives and methods that shaped America's decisive encounter with the Arab world.”—Tim Mitchell, New York University
About the Author
Robert Vitalis is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. He is author of When Capitalists Collide: Business Conflict and the End of Empire in Egypt (1995) and co-editor of Counter-Narratives: History, Contemporary Society, and Politics in Saudi Arabia and Yemen (2004).
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