Saudi Arizona: Desert geopolitics and the entangled fates of Arizona and Arabia

Southwest Center Series - Free Online Event


1 p.m., Feb. 16, 2022



Wednesday, February 16, 2022 - 1pm MT

Zoom Registration:

The Southwest Center and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies invite you to a captivating lecture about the geopolitics of connection and the 80+ years of agricultural exchange between Arizona and Saudi Arabia.  Our guest speaker, Natalie Koch, is Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and the Environment at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She is a political geographer with a regional focus on the Arabian Peninsula, and her book Arid empire: The entangled fates of Arizona and Arabia will be released by Verso in late 2022.

In 2014, the Saudi Arabian dairy company Almarai bought a farm near Vicksburg Arizona – and with it, near unlimited access to underground aquifer water. The company wanted to grow and send alfalfa back to Saudi Arabia, where its industrial-scale herds of milk cows make Almarai the largest dairy company in the Middle East. This talk unravels the complicated geopolitics of this deal by contextualizing it as part of a longer history of desert farming exchanges between Saudi Arabia and Arizona – including Arizona farmers sent to Saudi Arabia and several Saudi royal family tours of Arizona agriculture in the 1940s. Moving away from sensational stories of ‘land/water grab’ accounts to Saudi agricultural investments, the talk directs our attention to the geopolitics of connection that has long linked the US Southwest and the Middle East.