I will be presenting my talk “Good Governance and Open Spaces in Dhofar, Oman” hosted by AnthroState Talks, for the European Association of Social Anthropologists Network on Anthropologies of the State

(photos by Onaiza Shaikh)

“Good Governance and Open Spaces: How the State and Residents Negotiate the Use of Government Land in Dhofar, Oman.” AnthroState Talks for the European Association of Social Anthropologists Network on Anthropologies of the State. May 4, 2023. https://easaonline.org/networks/anthrostate/talks

“Good Governance and Open Spaces” explores a central question that developed from my work on houses and neighborhoods in Oman: how do the federal and municipal government structures create pleasant, well-used public areas within the southern Dhofar region? First I situate my work on housing within three common paradigms: the “happy” city, the Islamic City and the bifurcation within some large, modern Arabian Peninsula cities. I explain how the Omani government has concentrated on a few basics such as trash pick-up and a few amenities such as shelters in scenic areas, leaving many open spaces for citizens and residents to use as they see fit. The result is an unspoken pact in which residents use open areas as they like within certain self-imposed guidelines which prevents harm to the land. If this pact is broken, the government carefully steps in to restore balance.

Dr. Marielle Risse has taught cultural studies, literature and education for 20 years on the Arabian Peninsula. Her latest book, Houseways in Southern Oman (Routledge, 2023), explores how houses are created, maintained and conceptualized in southern Oman. Based on long-term research in Dhofar, it draws on anthropology, sociology, urban studies and architectural history to explain the physical, functional, cultural and social aspects of homes. Her other books are Community and Autonomy in Southern Oman (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019) and Foodways in Southern Oman (Routledge, 2021).