Date of Award

1-1-2010

Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Department

Geography

First Advisor

Caroline Nagel

Abstract

A legal, leafy stimulant traditionally consumed in Yemen, qat is a major element of Yemeni society (with over seventy percent of adult Yemenis reporting qat consumption in one recent survey) and economy (employing at least fourteen percent of the labor force). While a small body of literature explores qat consumption, and the qat industry in a macroeconomic sense, very little is written about the cultural economy surrounding qat production (qat farming, distribution, and retail) or the geographic dynamics of this same production. This thesis explores business and labor practices in the qat industry of the Sana'a metropolitan area, specifically focusing on the spaces of qat production. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with actors from across the qat supply chain (farmers, vendors, laborers, government and nongovernmental officials, etc.), I explore the practices of these actors, the relationships that they rely upon and construct, and the spaces which facilitate and are produced by these everyday business and labor practices and relationships. I ultimately argue that actors working in the industry use these various economic practices and relationships (produced and producing economic spaces of the industry) to site themselves within broader economic and cultural discursive frameworks, thereby fashioning hybrid cultural economic discourses and identities. This project contributes to existing literature on both the qat industry and on contemporary economy and culture in Yemen, while developing analytical frameworks (based on practice and relationality) for exploring questions of economic space, practice, discourse, and identity in Global South contexts.

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