Omer Shah is currently based in Jeddah and Mecca conducting ethnographic fieldwork for his dissertation research. Omer’s research is unfolding in and around Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 national transformation campaign. This campaign seeks to move the kingdom from oil as a “natural resource” to a new idea of “human resources,” thus encouraging Saudization of various industries but also, entrepreneurship, smart technology and the intensification of a knowledge economy. What is often ignored in Vision 2030 is a more regional transformation happening around hajj and umrah, where the Saudi state is preparing to increase the number of annual pilgrims from eight million to thirty million by the vision’s deadline. Hajj and umrah work presents us with an alternative grammar and temporality, where if oil has certain limits, hajj and umrah work is described as lasting “forever.” By working with startups, experts and pilgrim guides, Omer’s work ultimately explore the different textures, debates and challenges that surround the making of this new-old industry.
New York University, MA in Near Eastern Studies, 2014
Bard College, BA in Anthropology, 2007