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Deserts Are Not Empty

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Purchase at Columbia University Press

Colonial and imperial powers have often portrayed arid lands as “empty” spaces ready to be occupied, exploited, extracted, and polluted. Despite the undeniable presence of human and nonhuman lives and forces in desert territories, the “regime of emptiness” has thus inhabited, and is still inhabiting, many imaginaries. Deserts Are Not Empty challenges this colonial tendency, questions its roots and ramifications, and remaps the representations, theories, histories, and stories of arid lands—which comprise approximately one-third of the Earth’s land surface. The volume brings together poems in original languages, conversations with collectives, and essays by scholars and professionals from the fields of architecture, architectural history and theory, curatorial studies, comparative literature, film studies, landscape architecture, and photography. These different approaches and diverse voices draw on a framework of decoloniality to unsettle and unlearn the desert, opening up possibilities to see, think, imagine it otherwise.

With contributions from Saphiya Abu Al-Maati, Menna Agha, Asaiel Al Saeed, Aseel AlYaqoub, Yousef Awaad Hussein, Ariella Aïsha Azoulay, Danika Cooper, Brahim El Guabli, Timothy Hyde, Jill Jarvis, Bongani Kona, Dalal Musaed Alsayer, Observatoire des armements, Francisco E. Robles, Paulo Tavares, Alla Vronskaya, and XqSu.