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New Science in Arabia: Networks in the History of Biology in the Gulf

Dr. J├Ârg Matthias Determann

This project investigates the history of biological research in the Arab Gulf states since the Second World War. Among all the sciences, biology has been particularly controversial in the Gulf. On the one hand, several Gulf governments have banned the teaching of biological evolution and replaced it with Islamic creationism. On the other hand, Gulf governments have invested billions of dollars in biological, biomedical, and agricultural research. This research is intended to provide better health care and food security and to preserve wildlife as symbols of national identity. This project explores the extent to which networks have enabled biologists in the Gulf to undertake research despite the constraints imposed by these contradictory religious and technocratic policies. It entails several auxiliary questions. To what extent did the scientists' integration into global research networks enable them to push the boundaries in using the theory of evolution? To what extent did their networking with oil companies and philanthropists allow them to venture beyond the confines of governmental funding strategies? To what extent did their integration into wider social networks allow them to disseminate new biological knowledge in conservative Gulf societies? In exploring these networks, this project not only contributes to our understanding of science in the modern Middle East but also to scholarship on the role of networks in the history of science. This scholarship has changed our understanding of science across much of the world. In particular, scholars have replaced the model consisting of a European metropole and a colonial periphery with a new model reflecting multiple nodes and linkages. This scholarship, however, has so far neglected science in the Middle East, a region that is still seen as a periphery. The book resulting from this project aims to respond to this deficit.