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And the Place of the Year is…


Why Yemen, you ask?

It’s a place that seems to be on the brink of collapse, and even as we prepared to make this announcement, Yemen again emerged as a home base for terrorist plots. The stakes are high and the future is unclear for Oxford’s 2010 Place of the Year.

According to geographer Harm de Blij, author of The Power of Place and Why Geography Matters, “In the modern world of terrorist cells and jihadist movements, Yemen’s weakness spells opportunity.” Regional conflicts like the Houthi rebellion in the north and revival of the southern secessionist movement diminish the power of the government. Terrorist bases now reside in the remote countryside, posing a familiar dilemma for the United States: Is shoring up the country’s army and police worth the risk of increasing Al Qaeda protection and loyalty? At the same time Yemen stands to be the poorest country in the Arab world, nearly depleted of its leading export, oil, while facing a water shortage experts say is heighten by the country’s addiction to qat, a mildly narcotic leaf.

Once a promising experiment in Muslim-Arab democracy, Western opinion now recognizes Yemen to have all the features of a failed state. Obscured by the attention of the political geography, is what de Blij calls “a Yemen that might have been.”

To hear more from de Blij on Place of the Year be sure to check in tomorrow!

Yemen at a glance:

Population: 22,858,000
Capital(s): Sana’
Government: Multiparty Republic
Ethnic Groups: Predominantly Arab
Languages: Arabic
Religions: Islam
Currency: Yemeni rial= 100 fils
Cash crops: coffee and cotton
President: Ali Abdullah Saleh

And now for the runners-up…

Gulf Coast (of the United States)
the Eyjafjallajokull volcano
Seaside Heights, NJ
Rio de Janeiro
Wall Street
The Gulf of Aden (“Pirate Alley”)

OUP Employee Votes:

“I’d go with Mexico. A fascinating failing state in which our stake couldn’t be greater, and compelling for all the reasons the other places mentioned might be interesting (or in crisis) individually–you have natural disaster (or the ongoing potential thereof), man-made disaster, social unrest, crime (and how), political chaos and corruption, etc. Whatever you do, don’t pick Seaside Heights, N.J., though I’ve nothing whatever against the place.” -Tim Bent, Executive Editor, Trade History

“Haiti—so we don’t forget the hundreds of thousands of people who lost their families and homes and way of life.” -Jessica Ryan, Copyediting Lead

“Eyjafjallajokull. It’s perfect in that it had a world-wide impact, or close to it; it was hard to pronounce; and it was the proverbial flash-in-the-pan issue.” -Niko Pfund, VP and Publisher

“You totally made up that volcano name.” -Mr.Mittens, Ceramic Monkey

“As a kid, my mother would wrap me up in several layers of clothing before taking me to Seaside Heights, as though more material meant increased protection against the loss of childlike innocence that happens there. It warms my heart that all of America (and other MTV-broadcasting countries) can now experience the Sleaze-side Surf Club and boardwalk and all the eye-opening things that happen there.” -Grace Labatt, Associate Editor

“The volcano. It’s way cooler than anything else on the list, including the Jersey Shore. Sorry, but Snooki has nothing on Eyjafjallajokull.” -Terry Yoshiuchi, Special Sales Representative

“I vote for Haiti. Haiti has been a little forgotten since it happened early in the year and the media darlings of BP and miners have taken over their media time. It will take years to rebuild this tiny island and the opportunity to highlight them so that perhaps they can receive the support they need would be awesome.” -Julie Marshall, Director of Sales

“I love Betty White, but I will resist the urge to nominate Facebook as “Place of the Year.” This is Oxford, not The New York Observer. Instead I vote for Haiti. Ten years from now, no one except Stanley McChrystal will really care that their flight was delayed by a volcanic ash cloud, but the earthquake reorganized the life stories of a generation of Haitians into Before and After. The Gulf Coast disaster wasn’t as much of a disaster as anticipated – that is, it did not produce enough oil-coated seabirds to sustain the 24-hr-a-day press coverage that a “Place of the Year” requires. Greece…is located in Europe. As long as the USA is #1 and we have the nukes, the “Place of the Year” should stay in our hemisphere, yesno? That’s better. Wall Street might have been the “Place of the Year” in 2008, and it always imagines that it’s the place of the year, the decade, infinity, the universe – why give those jerks more attention? Pirate Alley sounds like fun, but there are pirates in Mexico, too – didn’t one of them behead a tourist, like, last week? Or was it the chief of police who was beheaded, and the tourist just disappeared? And has anyone seen the mayor recently? He hasn’t come to work in three days. Mexico has farther to fall; let’s wait until it hits bottom before we start dishing out awards. California – what happened in California? Budget crisis? Join the club. Nothing else springs to mind. You lose, California! And stop taunting us with those “Find Yourself Here” ads in the middle of winter. A few Yemeni terrorists aren’t going to make Yemen itself more interesting, unless the past ten years failed to satisfy our hunger for complicated tribal alliances and sand. Seaside Heights should absolutely win the E! Entertainment News “Place of the Year” and I support its nomination wholeheartedly. Is that it? Anyone else? I see a hand. Rio? What do you want, Rio? “Brazil is not a serious country,” said* Charles de Gaulle, who nominated himself for “Place of the Year” in 1962. Unless someone sends me on an all-expense-paid vacation to the “Place of the Year,” Rio is out. -Anonymous

HAITI. Place of the Year. Now, what do they win?” -Anonymous Assistant Editor

“I think that the Eyjafjallajokull volcano would be a good choice because it reminded us that the movement of people and goods across the globe is not a given, that we’re still subject to the power of this planet’s natural processes, and that we have not, and cannot, fully conquer nature. Thanks for sending out the choices.” -Mally Anderson, Editorial assistant in Trade History

“I think Rio de Janeiro for many reasons (although I will only provide three). The first being that the country’s economic resiliency during the recent global meltdown was remarkable, especially when you consider how the three other ‘BRIC’ country’s faired during the same time period. The strength that their bond is currently trading at is an all-time high for the country (and it looks as though it will be staying there for quite some time). They will be hosting the World Cup and the Olympics in the same decade; a first for any country in the world. And last but certainly not least, they arguably have the most beloved president in the world in Lula. Rio is where the place of the year should be.” -Nick Mafi, Publicity Assistant

“Greece is broke and convulsing with socialist rioting. Yemen is a hotbed of al-Qaeda. Unless it’s a Snookie nod, I’m lost on the Seaside Heights, NJ meme completely! Help!” -Susan Fensten, Publicist

“Haiti – it was such an eye opener and I think it’s important to bring some light back on the country. Often after a disaster, a place is all over the news and then just slowly fades from our memories. This might bring some attention back to Haiti and prompt people to ask “how are they doing?” -Jamie Taratoot, Events Coordinator & Associate Publicist

“I’m gonna go with Haiti. Not only was the disaster immense, but it was the first time I made a “text” donation to the Red Cross. I think it was an event that, through the media, had a striking impact on the US (at least). I will be really interested in seeing how the recovery efforts go there.” -Anne Zaccardelli, Special Sales Representative

“It is odd to think a geological phenomenon could have a major impact on the world like the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, or the earthquake in Haiti, but 2010 reminded us that Mother Nature is not to be trifled with and for that reason I have to go with Haiti as my pick for 2010 Place of the Year. ” -Christian Purdy, Publicity Director

“I’ve never been to Greece, but I’m recently married with no honeymoon planned and we’ve got an ache for it. We’re keeping one glimpse in mind. Presided over by a little, wrought-iron porch, from a whitewashed third-floor window, there’s a narrow crescent of cobbled streets in the village of Kioni, Ithaca, that makes its way down to the water’s edge. The inlet is blue enough to stop you in your tracks, but in the shallows where the crabs rest, it’s clear, briney, and made to match the temperature of your skin. It knows you! – I’m sure of it. We’re wrapped in a steep, burnt coastline here, about 300 miles northwest of Santorini, and from that high window the view of the lane and olive branches and red rooflines below us zigzags down and converges to a point on the tiny beach, a uniquely Greek view, shaped like an upside-down fir tree. We can’t decide whether to stick with that sight, and its upper breeze carrying marjoram and fish, or join it, down by the shallows. Perhaps a murmur and an ouzo at the best cafe in the village will settle this. We will find that cafe or pass the bright day looking, until the sunset steals in, mutes the hillside colors and burnishes the sky, and my heart stops. We have not seen any of this! But our shared glimpse of the quietest islands in Greece is more real to us than places we’ve known our whole lives.”  -Anonymous Assistant Marketing Manager

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