governance within reach

 

^ Remains of the Hejaz Railway in Saudi Arabia, Von Medina an die jordanische Grenze, photographed by Ursula Schulz-Dornburg, 2002-2003.

 
Designed by German engineer Heinrich Meissner, the Hejaz Railway was built under the Ottoman Empire 1900-1908; a 1,300 km-long line linking Damascus with Medina (originally thought to connect Constantinople with the holy city of Mecca in 120 hours). It was meant to shorten distances for both population as well as soldiers, in order to strengthen authority within Arab provinces of the Empire. This strategy of controlling a vast territory through transport infrastructure goes very much in line with what Scott proposes as the Art of Not being Governed: remaining stateless by seeking refuge in remote regions beyond authority reach. Nonetheless, bedouin tribes in rebellion against Ottoman rule – supported by the legendary Lawrence of Arabia – torn out the railway tracks of the Hejaz Railway in 1916-17. What remains in the middle of nowhere are these abandoned railroad stations, where no train stops any longer. They consist of standardized pieces of architecture, made out of two L-shaped volumes and a few window openings. The lines can vaguely be distinguished today on the gravel surface of the desert.

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