Status Quo Utopias in the UAE

Episode 405

Download the podcast
Feed | iTunes | GooglePlay | SoundCloud

About half-hour's drive from Abu Dhabi sits Masdar City, a clean technology and renewable energy business cluster and research institute. Founded in 2006, Masdar imagines a sustainable and business-savvy future where technology, ecology, and humanity co-exist and thrive, even in the oil-rich deserts of the Arabian Peninsula. In this episode we speak with Gökçe Günel, who spent over a year at Masdar examining the anthropology of renewable energy and green technology development. We talk about the challenges of pioneering greener versions of transportation, currency, and energy, as well as how experts imagine and produce these projects. How can developing technologies help us mitigate or even avert ecological disaster? And how does faith in their powers define whether and how we can transform our current patterns of consumption and energy use?

Stream via SoundCloud 

Contributor Bios

Gökçe Günel is Assistant Professor in the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Arizona, where she works on the anthropology of energy and climate change. Her 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, concentrating on the Masdar City project.
Matthew Ghazarian is a Ph.D. Candidate in Columbia University's Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, African Studies. His research focuses on the intersections of sectarianism, humanitarianism, and famine in central and eastern Anatolia between 1839 and 1893.


Episode No. 405
Release Date: March 11, 2019
Recording Location: Istanbul
Audio editing by Matthew Ghazarian
Music: "Sombra" by Zé Trigueiros
Images and bibliography courtesy of Gökçe Günel


An exterior view of Masdar in 2014

Another exterior view of Masdar in 2014

Example of a man with a brush cleaning solar panels at Masdar

Interior of a building at Masdar 

Dorms at Masdar

Laboratory facilities at Masdar

Laboratory facilities at Masdar

Select Bibliography

Latour, Bruno, and Catherine Porter. Aramis or The Love of Technology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996.

Limbert, Mandana. In the Time of Oil: Piety, Memory, and Social Life in an Omani Town. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2010.

Mitchell, Timothy. Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil. London; New York: Verso, 2011.

Stupin, Laura, "I Live in a Spaceship in the Middle of the Desert," 2010, -desert.html, accessed April 7, 2017.


Ottoman History Podcast is a noncommerical website intended for educational use. Anyone is welcome to use and reproduce our content with proper attribution under the terms of noncommercial fair use within the classroom setting or on other educational websites. All third-party content is used either with express permission or under the terms of fair use. Our page and podcasts contain no advertising and our website receives no revenue. All donations received are used solely for the purposes of covering our expenses. Unauthorized commercial use of our material is strictly prohibited, as it violates not only our noncommercial commitment but also the rights of third-party content owners.

We make efforts to completely cite all secondary sources employed in the making of our episodes and properly attribute third-party content such as images from the web. If you feel that your material has been improperly used or incorrectly attributed on our site, please do not hesitate to contact us.