Robert Vitalis, an associate professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, will talk about his newest book, America’s Kingdom: Mythmaking on the Saudi Oil Frontier, at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8 in the library’s Sanford Room.
His book details the effects of the Arabian-American Oil Company’s importation of Jim Crow labor practices in the Arabian peninsula and the subsequent struggle to establish labor rights in the oil-rich kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The story invites readers to reconsider questions related to labor, resistance, state-building, globalization, and American exceptionalism as it moves from mineral mines in Latin America to strikes in the American West, to the development of Aramco’s “American Camp in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.
Of particular local interest is the discussion in the Forward of the role of HWS President William Eddy (1936-1942) in the United States’ diplomatic and corporate involvement in the politics and economy of the kingdom. After leaving the Colleges, Eddy served with the Office of Strategic Services and its successor, the CIA, including time as a naval attaché in Tangier, Morocco.
Vitalis’s talk, sponsored by the Economics and Political Science departments and the International Relations program with additional support from the Office of the President, is free and open to the public. Vitalis will meet with students from the three sponsoring majors and those in Assistant Professor of Political Science Stacey Philbrick Yadav’s Middle East Politics class.
The speaker is a former director of Penn’s Middle East Center, one of a small number of Title VI-funded Middle East research centers in the United States. He has received awards from the MacArthur Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the Woodrow Wilson Center, and the American Council of Learned Societies.
Copies of his book are now available at The College Store.