Shaping the urban life of oil in Bahrain: Consumerism, leisure, and public communication in manama and in the oil camps, 1932-1960s

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Fuccaro's article explores new geographies of leisure and consumption that emerged in Manama and in Bahrain's oil camps in the first decades of oil development. New forms of public communication such as the press, printed materials, and cinema are used to explore urban spaces, actors, and social contexts of leisure and consumption as the unique by-product of oil. On the one hand, the focus is on the images and messages popularized by these new media and on the emergence and influence of an advertising and public relations market. On the other, a variety of actors are analyzed as the producers and recipients of these messages and images: Manama's young people and the city's entrepreneurs, the public relations strategists of the Bahrain Petroleum Company (BAPCO) and the Bahrain government, the expatriate housewives, and the indigenous oil workers. The article begins with a discussion of Manama's youth culture in the 1950s as epitomized by the cinema and the youth club. It then opens the discussion to the broader landscape of Bahrain's capital city as the center of a new world of commodities and services. Manama's urban life is then contrasted to that of opulent and secluded Awali, the company town built by BAPCO in 1937, in order to illustrate how Awali's lifestyle was experienced, represented, and perceived by its expatriate population, foreign visitors, and Bahrainis. The last section of the article analyzes the role of BAPCO in popularizing new urban and suburban consumer and leisure cultures since the early 1950s through magazines, cinema, and propaganda materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-74
Number of pages16
JournalComparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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