Natasha Iskander is Honored for Book on Migrant Workers Behind the 2022 World Cup, and Beyond

In her new book, Does Skill Make Us Human?, Professor Natasha Iskander offers an in-depth look at the challenging social and economic lives of migrant workers who were recruited to build stadiums and infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Natasha Iskander, Professor of Urban Planning and Public Service at NYU Wagner, has been honored by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning for her critically acclaimed book looking at the migrant workforce involved in preparations for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar—Does Skill Make Us Human?

Presented only once every two years since its establishment in 2013, the John Friedmann Book Award is given to a book or comparable work that best exemplifies scholarship in the area of planning for sustainable development. Friedmann was a widely recognized planning scholar who contributed to the field of urban and regional planning through his writings on planning theory, regional development planning, and world cities, and was the author of 26 books and close to 200 journal articles.

Professor Iskander's Does Skill Makes Us Human: Migrant Workers in 21st Century Qatar and Beyond was published by Princeton University Press in November, 2021.

Taking readers to Qatar's booming construction industry in the lead-up to the World Cup scheduled November 20 to December 18, 2022, Professor Iskander shows how the distinction between the "skilled" and the "unskilled" is used to to limit freedom, narrow political rights, and even deny access to imagination and desire. Looking at the experiences of migrant workers, she reveals that skill functions as a marker of social difference powerful enough to structure all aspects of social and economic life.

The author also discusses how skill distinctions define industry responses to global warming, with employers recruiting migrants from climate-damaged places at lower wages and exposing these workers to Qatar’s extreme heat. She considers how the dehumanizing politics of skill might be undone through tactical solidarity and creative practices.

NYU Wagner congratulates Professor Natasha Iskander on her richly deserved award!