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Dubai, the City as Corporation

Ahmed Kanna

Publication Year: 2011

Somewhere in the course of the late twentieth century, Dubai became more than itself. The city was, suddenly, a postmodern urban spectacle rising from the desert—precisely the glittering global consumer utopia imagined by Dubai’s rulers and merchant elite. In Dubai, the City as Corporation, Ahmed Kanna looks behind this seductive vision to reveal the role of cultural and political forces in shaping both the image and the reality of Dubai.

Exposing local struggles over power and meaning in the making and representation of Dubai, Kanna examines the core questions of what gets built and for whom. His work, unique in its view of the interconnectedness of cultural identity, the built environment, and politics, offers an instructive picture of how different factions—from local and non-Arab residents and expatriate South Asians to the cultural and economic elites of the city—have all participated in the creation and marketing of Dubai. The result is an unparalleled account of the ways in which the built environment shapes and is shaped by the experience of globalization and neoliberalism in a diverse, multinational city.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

With this book, I try to bring a perspective informed by recent developments in cultural anthropology, the field in which I was trained, and Middle East history, a field in which I was not, onto the analysis of the ways Dubai has urbanized over the past decade. ...

Note on Transliteration

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pp. xv-xvi

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Introduction: Dubai Contexts and Contestations

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pp. 1-42

Today it still seems acceptable to represent the Arab Gulf, in ways no longer so acceptable in the case of other postcolonies, ahistorically and apolitically, as a region somehow exempt from the structural constraints of empire and capital.1 ...

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1. State, Citizen, and Foreigner in Dubai

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pp. 43-76

Shortly before I traveled to Dubai in late 2006, there appeared a report by the New York–based, nongovernmental organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) entitled “Building Towers, Cheating Workers.” The report accused the United Arab Emirates (UAE) construction industry of systematic abuses against workers, ...

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2. “Going South” with the Starchitects: Urbanist Ideology in the Emirati City

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pp. 77-104

Driving along Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road near the World Trade Center interchange is an uncanny experience in architectural remembrance.1 A wall of skyscrapers, one to each side of the highway, gives the passerby the claustrophobic impression of traveling through an interminable tunnel of mirrored glass. ...

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3. The Vanished Village: Nostalgic and Nationalist Critiques of the New Dubai

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pp. 105-134

Among the most important parts of the family-state’s and allied firms’ development projects during the boom years were well-funded advertising campaigns extolling the glories of the resort, consumption, and spectacular urban enclaves and landscapes these firms were planning or developing. ...

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4. The City-Corporation: Young Professionals and the Limits of the Neoliberal Response

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pp. 135-170

While they represent an influential tendency in UAE cultural criticism, the nostalgic, or what I have called neoorthodox, voices in the previous chapter are regarded as stifling and rigid by many other Emiratis.1 It is not uncommon for younger Emiratis, especially from among the neoliberal managerial class, to orient themselves towards a perceived multinational modernity ...

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5. Indian Ocean Dubai: The Identity Politics of South Asian Immigrants

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pp. 171-204

Lest we are tempted to assume, based on the discussion in the previous two chapters, that there is some neat line dividing the Emirati neoorthodoxy and neoliberal tendencies on questions of cultural pluralism, consider the following conversation I had with a young Dubai flexible citizen. ...

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Conclusion: Politicizing Dubai Space

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pp. 205-218

On September 19, 2005, between 800 and 1,000 Bangladeshi, Indian, and Pakistani construction workers from the Abu Dhabi-based Al- Hamed Company for Development and Projects marched from their worksite on Nakheel’s Palm Island Jumeirah onto Sheikh Zayed Road in protest of four-months’ non-payment of wages and wretched living conditions at their labor camp.1 ...

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pp. 219-222

This book would have been impossible without the support and engagement of many people. I wish to thank the following individuals and institutions. ...


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pp. 223-240


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pp. 241-258


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pp. 259-262

E-ISBN-13: 9780816676583
E-ISBN-10: 0816676585
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816656318

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2011