This article examines the ruins of the former structures of rule in a medium-sized town in the Sultanate of Oman. It explores how people in Bahla relate to and perceive the ruins of forts, walls, and neighborhoods that had helped maintain order in the previous era and that are being transformed in the new state. While the fort has changed from local and regional political-military center to national museum, helping shape more abstract and impersonal relationships to the past, the town's crumbling wall, whose origin myth and grandeur are no longer legitimized as an emblem of the town's identity, continues to evoke the sense of a protective boundary. And, the town's neighborhoods are succumbing to simultaneous centrifugal and centripetal pressures: state attempts at streamlining the administration of neighborhoods are emerging just as the control of the neighborhoods through locked doors ends, giving way to the disciplining of movement and the realignment of forms of belonging. Ruins of the former regime are selectively being legitimized, rebuilt, and incorporated into the new centralized and bureaucratic state, while memories of the past system of rule and governance, although shifting and certainly also selective, continue to mediate peoples' relationships to and senses of these sites. The shifts in perception and spatial experience that have accompanied the ruins of the old regime and that have emerged in the wake of the changing regime's management of order are also further reminders of the possibilities of Oman's future after the demise of the sultan and when oil reserves are depleted.
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Mandana E. Limbert; In the Ruins of Bahla: Reconstructed Forts and Crumbling Walls in an Omani Town. Social Text 1 June 2008; 26 (2 (95)): 83–103. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01642472-2007-030
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