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New Texts Out Now: Ahmed Kanna, "Dubai, the City as Corporation"

[Cover of Ahmed Kanna's book [Cover of Ahmed Kanna's book "Dubai, the City as Corporation"]

Ahmed Kanna, Dubai, the City as Corporation. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011.        

Jadaliyya: What made you write this book?

Ahmed Kanna: This is my first book. It emerged from my dissertation research. When I first started studying anthropology in graduate school, I thought I would do fieldwork in Lebanon and on Levantine cultures (having spent a couple of summers traveling and living in Damascus and especially Beirut). At around the same time (early 2000s), I started getting interested in the literature on the sociocultural dimensions of architecture. I had the good fortune of having mentors in grad school who encouraged me to always test the boundaries of anthropology, to think in interdisciplinary ways, and also the good fortune of getting involved with the architecture school of my university, where people were doing exciting work on, among other places, Dubai. I was also somewhat obsessed with Frankfurt School theory and similar writers, such as Walter Benjamin and Siegfried Kracauer (amusing, I am sure, to people who had endure my musings on “dialectics” at the time). The latter two writers, Benjamin and Kracauer, especially, inspired me to think about the urban, space, and architecture as anthropological issues. This led me from an interest in Beirut to Dubai, which was of course undergoing an architectural boom at the time. Unlike Beirut, there was very little Western scholarship written about Dubai, or any other Gulf societies. What there was was not very anthropological or critical, in the Frankfurt School sense. A project on Dubai, circa 2002, presented a nice opportunity to do interesting fieldwork with understudied groups, for example, managers of shopping malls, architects commissioned by corporations, as well as, obviously, Gulf Arabs and expatriates. These were all very understudied groups and themes. Moreover, a Dubai project would deal directly with the themes and theories I thought were the most interesting, such as the interconnections between the built environment and sociocultural processes.   

[Rem Koolhaas's vision for the development of Dubai, circa 2008. Image via The New York Times / Office for Metropolitan Architecture.]

J: What particular topics, issues, and literatures does it address?

AK: It is generally a book about space and cultural politics, and more specifically about how specific kinds of cultural politics came to be: such as the theory that the ruling dynasties of the Gulf represent “Arab desert democracy” and are the necessary, inevitable agents of modernization in the Gulf. In turn, how do the representations of Dubai, in particular, as a quasi-utopian place of urban experimentation, architectural daring, and a “good” version of Arab modernity, relate to the context of these cultural politics? The book reflects my attempt to grapple with the work of Henri Lefebvre, to whom I turned after the Frankfurt School work. I saw resonances between Lefebvre’s writings on how urbanists, by which he meant experts such as architects, planners, etc., imagined and represented space, with the writings of anthropologists such as James Ferguson and Akhil Gupta, who were interested in the concrete ways that nation-states, boundaries, cultures, and the like are imagined and represented. Both sets of literatures were also useful in thinking about how these representations were situated in specific cultural and political contexts. If you read a typical book or article on the Gulf – I am referring here to the serious, scholarly studies, not the journalistic stuff, which, with few exceptions, is execrable – this scholarship has tended not to be very interested in the constructedness of the Gulf nation-states, ethnes, and notions of “tradition” and “modernity.” Generally, writers have tended to reify the ideologies and discourses of the Gulf societies: things like political stability, the tribal character of these societies, the “natural” Arab ethne, etc. I am certainly not the first or only person to raise questions about the constructedness of these phenomena (Jill Crystal, Fred Halliday, Anh Nga Longva, and more recently, Neha Vora, come easily to mind). But there is still a lot of work, and from an anthropological perspective, much more theoretically interesting work, to be done. 

Another literature, or, since there were so few sources, small group of texts I found useful were the histories and voices of UAE dissidents, who had risked imprisonment or exile to write about or agitate against the monopolistic claims of the Al Maktoum and Al Nahyan dynasties (the rulers of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, respectively). Much of this material I found in Christopher Davidson’s Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success, a 2008 political history of Dubai that contains a very good, thoroughly researched overview of the contestations of dynastic rule from the 1920s to the 1950s. Unfortunately, Dubai people’s voices and a detailed account of these contestations were beyond the scope of Davidson’s book. Luckily, a colleague alerted me to another study, Emirati scholar Abdul-Khaleq Abdulla’s 1984 Georgetown dissertation, Political Dependency: The Case of the United Arab Emirates, which filled in some (although not all) of the gaps in the Davidson book. These two texts formed the foundation upon which I built my ethnographic case about contestation and cooptation of Dubai citizens, and their relations to expatriates, which formed the bulk of the book. But owing to the dearth of sources on the history of political contestation in the UAE, I had to do a good deal of inference to build upon Davidson and Abdulla. For example, Davidson’s book is a wonderful mine of data, events, and such, and a really well-told story. But readers who compare our texts will see that I interpreted that data differently from him. I tended to emphasize the conflictual, while I think he tended to emphasize the consensual, in Dubai political history.  

J:  Who do you hope will read this book, and what sort of impact would you like it to have?

AK: I’d like to start (and in some cases continue) conversations with scholars of architecture, as well as of course Middle East studies and anthropology people. My debt to anthropologists, especially my teachers in grad school who taught me to be attentive to discourse, language, and local structures of meaning, comes across perhaps more clearly in the book than does my debt to architects, so let me comment on the latter in more detail. The book reflects debates and conversations I’ve been having with architecture students and teachers since the early 2000s, conversations about the politics of architectural practice and representation (the book engages the latter more than the former), the legacies of architectural modernism and postmodernism, especially in the so-called global south, and other themes. I was lucky enough to be invited by an architect colleague, during my fieldwork, to sit in on his seminar at the architecture school of the American University of Sharjah, UAE, where I met a cross-section of future UAE (and global) architects: Emiratis, Iranians, Iraqis, Indians, and others. It was one of the major highlights of my fieldwork, and although I don't refer to this experience explicitly in the book, it had a deep impact on my thinking. Besides this, I met many others who were interested in similar questions. This would have been a really different book had I not been engaged and challenged by many really sharp, intellectually curious architecture scholars in the United States, the UAE, and other places. The second chapter, “Going South with the Starchitects,” is an Edward Said-inspired critique of representations and spatializations of “the city” and urban life in the global south by architects coming from the global north. It’s a provocation in some ways, but meant as a friendly one, and hopefully my sincerity in wanting to converse across disciplines will come across. The world is becoming more and more urban all the time, and architects are central players in this process. I think that the intersection between anthropology and architectural studies and criticism is a really exciting avenue of future interdisciplinary research and collaboration.  

[Terminal 3 of Dubai International Airport, completed in 2008. Image via Google Images.]

J: What other projects are you working on right now?

AK: Currently, I’m getting interested in issues of cartography and various kinds of mapping, specifically how both literal and imaginary maps are produced at the intersection of projects of state power and discourses and feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. Thinkers such as Giorgio Agamben have discussed how contexts in which states claiming so-called exceptional sovereignty, where they arrogate for themselves a position above the law, the ability to declare states of emergency and enemies at will, are related to social atmospheres of uncertainty. Being at University of the Pacific's very interdisciplinary international studies program has given me a chance to teach courses outside my field of anthropology, and one of the ones I am currently designing and getting excited about is a geography course. While researching this course, I’ve realized how geography resonates with the issues I’ve been interested in for a long time – space, mapping, spatializing discourses, and so on. One of the areas that really fascinates me is critical cartography, as exemplified by the work of J.B. Harley and Matthew Edney, who talk both about how maps are not simply mirrors of spatial reality but are constitutive of spatial reality and how mapping has been a central process in the making of modernity. This seems to be a very powerful insight for understanding contemporary sociopolitical and cultural processes, especially in terms of how maps and mapping intersect with state projects of exceptional sovereignty. The project is very much in its initial stages. For various reasons I have decided no longer to work on the Arab Gulf, so I am trying to reconcile, on the one side, building upon the results of my previous work and, on the other, trying to find a new field site. The next field site may be a physical place, but it may be virtual. It's an exciting time, but also in some ways uncertain. I have not had to think about a fundamentally new project since graduate school, but, also, I am reading more widely than I've done since graduate school, which is great.

Excerpt from Dubai, the City as Corporation:

We live in a wonderland....I didn’t come to Dubai for anything “real.”...I’ve already lived in real places.
— White-collar expatriate in Dubai

You should tell your readers that we’re not just Bedouins with more money than we know what to do with. We have social problems. We have poverty.
— Raghad, management-level employee of Majid Al Futtaim Corporation

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] In spite of the efforts and successes of postcolonial theory in connecting the practices of cultural representation, capitalism, and empire (Ahmad 1992; Ahmad 2006; Said) and the labors of some brilliant recent (and not so recent) scholars of the Gulf (Abdulla 1984; Al Rasheed; Fuccaro; Halliday; Longva; Vitalis), it still seems natural and obvious to write about the region as traditional, a unique part of the Middle East, as supposedly governed by popular dynasties whose legitimacy rests on the pillars of cultural authenticity, tribal or Arabian desert democracy, and a sophisticated if intuitive grasp of modern capitalism. Like some caricature of the colonial gaze demolished by Edward Said, Western representations of the Gulf have tended to excise history in any but a superficial, teleological, even hagiographical, sense.[2] In turn, the object of this gaze becomes a monolith, impervious to the workings and dialectics of economic, social, and political process. Not coincidentally, perhaps, in a region governed by dynasties that have been generally hostile to anticolonial (or indeed most other kinds of) modernizing reforms, the Gulf becomes a repository of tradition, timeless if not mysterious. Thirty years after orientalism was demystified (Said), the Gulf seems a recalcitrant holdout. It remains a throwback to an “Orient” that is no longer possible elsewhere.

British and, in the case of Saudi Arabia, American officials and oil-men often imposed not entirely ingenuous notions of tradition and modernity on their Gulf colonies and neocolonies. On the one side were visionary, modernizing, and moderate rulers, on the other tribal, primitive, and irrational populations. “Good Muslims” and “bad Muslims” is a dichotomy, according to Mahmood Mamdani, of great utility in the workings of empire. In a postcolonial and U.S.-dominated, post–cold war world where colonial nostalgia (Rosaldo) has become deeply problematic for the resistances and counterhegemonies arising out of the former colonies, the Gulf (in particular, certain of its privileged enclaves, such as Dubai and Qatar) seems to offer a guiltless counternarrative — the traditional societies whose visionary rulers, with the help of well-meaning Westerners, fashioned impressive modernization projects, developed the desert, and gave their peoples the gift of progress.[3]

Yet to the old story of an orientalist gaze and its culturalization of the histories and politics of empire, there is a new twist. In going to the Gulf (and especially to Dubai) in recent years, orientalism somehow seems to have gone through the looking glass. Instead of appearing as traditional societies suspended in time, in the early twenty-first century certain parts of the Gulf became forward-looking, dynamic, and hypermodern, the very Arab states, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times wrote in 2006, that the United States should be supporting as a counterweight to the other Arab states: “Dubaians are building a future based on butter not guns, private property not caprice. . . . Dubai is about nurturing Arab dignity through success not suicide.” The category of “good Muslims” now no longer referred just to the state or the ruling family (sometimes known, in Washington’s idiom, as the “moderate Arab state”) but had somehow expanded to include the entire society, in this case Dubai.[4] This shift is a main part of the background of this book, and analyzing how its local hegemonic articulations and effects have gone into the project of creating Dubai’s sense of urban place in the first decade of this century is one of my main aims.

In the case of Dubai, this orientalism in reverse has had two striking features. First, its main exponents, along with the typical neoconservative and imperialist traditional intellectuals such as Friedman, were experts of a different kind. Writing about a different context (postwar France), Henri Lefebvre called these “urbanists” (2003) — architects, urban planners, and real estate developers, along with various kinds of intellectuals, from academics to journalists. Although many of these, such as the star architects or “starchitects” who began to descend on the United Arab Emirates in the middle part of the decade, were Western-based, many were locally based. The latter included managers of real estate development firms, locally- based architects, and perhaps most importantly, members of Dubai’s effective state, the Executive Council, which controls much of the urban development in the city. During the period of my fieldwork, the most important members of the Council (a body not unlike the Signoria in renaissance Venice) were the ruler Muhammad Al Maktoum and his main confidantes, Muhammad Al Abbar, Ahmad bin Bayyat, Sultan Ahmad bin Sulaym, and Muhammad Al Gergawi. While Sheikh Muhammad reshuffled some of the important posts held by these men in 2009 (for example, demoting Al Gergawi as head of the Maktoum subsidiary Dubai Holding and replacing him with bin Bayyat and removing Al Abbar, Al Gergawi, and bin Sulaym from the board of the holding company Investment Corporation of Dubai), for almost the entire preceding decade they played a supreme role in Dubai urbanism, chairing the Maktoum parastatal firms EMAAR, The Media and Technology Free Zone (Tecom), Dubai Holding, and Dubai World, respectively.[5] These parastatals were founded in the late 1990s and early 2000s by Muhammad Al Maktoum as a sort of spearhead for the project of a socalled New Dubai, in which free zones, resorts, themed architecture, and massive enclaves — zones of “neoliberal exception,” in Aihwa Ong’s words (2000; 2007) — would carpet the city and, eventually, lead Dubai into a multinational, “flexible” (Ong) global urban future.

A second feature of orientalism in reverse was how important this discourse became in the creation of the New Dubai of the 2000s, a city that was (and often continues to be) incessantly imaged and represented as new, futuristic, and a response to deep questions of human urbanity. The rise of the modern, postindependence city of Dubai, characterized by banking, ports, infrastructures, entrepôt trade, and platform utilities for Western (and, increasingly, Middle Eastern and South Asian) multinational corporate actors and institutions, coincided with the rule of Rashid bin Said Al Maktoum (1958–90), father of the current ruler, Muhammad. However, while Rashid initiated important, ambitious infrastructural projects, it was under Muhammad (who, although officially the ruler only since 2006, has been the effective ruler since his father’s death) that the city became an eminence of global marketing. It is in this “Muhammedan era” (al-ḥiqba al-Muḥammadiyya), as the Emirati intellectual Abdul Khaleq Abdulla has put it, that Dubai became “Dubai,” the fantastically photogenic city of skyscrapers, seven-star hotels, and city-sized special economic zones and residential–entertainment enclaves (Abdulla 2006). Until the 2008 world financial crisis sobered many erstwhile boosters, it was this “Muhammedan” city that cast a spell on most journalistic (and some scholarly) writers. The city, it was interminably asserted, was a radical break from “Arab traditions and pathologies” (pace Friedman), politics, and modernist and postmodernist urbanity.

These two features, reverse orientalism as an urbanist project (in the Lefebvrian sense) and as discourse of the New Dubai, coincided most strikingly in the middle of the first decade of this century, when Western architects and architectural theorists began taking Dubai seriously. The following are typical examples of the ways many of the metropolitan West’s more sophisticated or creative classes were writing about Dubai as recently as 2007 and 2008. One writer, in the cultural magazine Bidoun, which in the first decade of this century became an influential venue for cultural and urban theory on Middle East cities, asserts the following:

A major metropolis was and is being constructed by a nouveau riche tribal village whose goal is to make Dubai as a world-class city, . . . everything is new. . . . Dubai has passed into its latest phase of mega development; a phase that is difficult to pin down with one label but that might find its home with the notion of “supermodernism.” . . . Much of the city’s architecture seems to fall into the category of non-place [which has] established a new sort of authenticity; . . . it destabilizes our understanding of authenticity. [Ackley n.d.]

Another writer, a major architecture critic for the New York Times, wrote in connection to a Koolhaas–Nakheel project, the Dubai Waterfront City, that Dubai offered the star architect an unprecedented opportunity to create his own version of the famous Generic City theory (Ouroussof; see also Koolhaas 1978). Koolhaas himself has on various occasions, and with varying degrees of explicitness, discussed why Dubai and other non-Western cities have been attractive to him. Even after the disillusionment of the economic crisis, he argued at the 2009 meeting of the Sharjah, UAE Biennial, Dubai remained a city of experimentation and a “certain kind of beauty” connected to its accommodation of (urban and social) liminality or in-betweenness (Koolhaas 2009). Dubai is, in this reading, an example of the adventure and new possibilities offered by cities of the global south, an attraction felt by Koolhaas for a long time. Africa and Asia, he told an interviewer in 1996, felt much newer and more vigorous than the West; they are an antidote to the blasé sense that globalization makes everything homogeneous. African and Asian cities “are representative of the future”; building there is a “daily pleasure” (Heron).

Such enormous claims were all too common in the past decade. As elite local urbanists, the Maktoum state and parastatals along with other large firms, marched Dubai toward a modernity of a certain kind, there appeared no shortage of (increasingly more prominent) Western urbanists enraptured by this image of the city. The language used by urbanists is ostensibly different from older discourses about the traditional character of Gulf societies, the orientalism of the old school with its conflation of a kind of culture talk with politics and history. No longer is the non-Western other traditional, timeless, and mysterious. But culture talk still persists, if in a different form. The joint creativity of the ruler and the architects “made it possible for our small film team to get close to the characters throughout the year as we documented a process that reflects the entrepreneurship found in this Middle Eastern corner of the world,” writes the director of an (admittedly excellent) PBS film on an architectural competition in Dubai’s neighboring emirate, Ras Al Khaimah (Gjørv). The notion that the ruler is a creative genius has been asserted even more loudly by urbanists working with Maktoum and in Dubai. The political question, “what gets built and for whom” (Ghirardo), however, is not often asked in urbanist discourse. Like the orientalism of the old school, reverse orientalism excises history and politics from its representations. Now, not only the ruler but all of “Dubai” (or Abu Dhabi, Qatar, or Ras Al Khaimah, etc.) is modern, even supermodern (whatever that means). Only those characteristics of the ruler, state officials, and state institutions that these urbanists recognize as similar to their own — neoliberalism above all but also an assumption that they as actors are exempt from politics and history — are elevated to the level of cultural qualities evidencing the Gulf’s modernity. As Gjørv suggests, it is a temperamental sympathy, rather than politically and economically conditioned contingency, that connects the local and foreign urbanist.

Urbanists think they are generating theory independently. As I show in this book, however, they are in practice, and perhaps unwittingly, aligning their theory with preexisting structures of political power and cultural representation in Dubai. In an excellent recent survey of urban theory, John Rennie Short has written that in the twenty-first century, “almost all city governments promote growth aggressively on a scope unimaginable just a decade ago. We live in an era characterized by . . . ‘place wars’” (112). Short goes on to show how this period has witnessed the rise of increasing numbers of “wannabe cities,” cities both in the developed and developing worlds that seek to achieve a world-city cachet and command function centrality. This they attempt to do through various strategies, such as dispersal of industrial infrastructures from urban centers, organizational streamlining of urban management, and cultural boosterism (113–15). The latter two are particularly relevant to Dubai. “Wannabe cities,” writes Short, “are cities of spectacle, cities of intense urban redevelopment, and cities with powerful growth rhetoric” (115). They are cities with “an edgy insecurity about their roles and position in the world that gives tremendous urgency” to their “desperate scramble for big name architects, art galleries and cultural events” (115).

The main questions that I ask in this book are the following:

* What voices and social formations are both enabled and displaced when a city takes part in “place wars?”

* If “place wars” is a kind of globalization, and we no longer think of globalization as a top-down process of coordination of local worlds with the dictates of global capital, what are the local structures of power and meaning shaping Dubai’s engagement in this transnational urban competition for real and symbolic capital?

* How do hegemonic representations of the urban ideal and the urban future draw upon local structures of meaning, and what are the slippages and tensions in such hegemonic projects?

In subsequent chapters, I will strive to provide concrete answers to these questions. But for the moment, it is important to dwell on the question of global cities. How might the study of Dubai reveal new insights that can inform global cities theory?

Much if not most of the work on so-called global cities has tended to apply a priori models of globalization to case studies with the aim of identifying which cities are really global and which are not. As Short points out, correctly in my opinion, this is misguided. Many if not all cities engage in globalization; global processes act in and through most cities. Any city “can act as a gateway for the transmission of economic, political, and cultural globalization” (74). In the United States, increasing integration of cities, particularly former smokestack or industrial cities, into the neoliberal era of globalization has been associated with the aforementioned strategies of city marketing and governance, as well as with rewriting the city as “green” (rather than “rusty”) and as a good place to live. This process of rewriting, so to say, constitutes the point at which the economics, politics, and symbolism of urban globalization meet. In the North American case, the redefinition of the good life in this urbanist project has entailed fore- grounding the possibilities for “individual consumption rather than collective welfare, private attainment rather than social justice, and the city as private pleasure rather than collective good” (124).

These are typical values of the post-Reaganite moment among the U.S.-American classes who most benefited from neoliberalism and who have largely been in charge of rewriting the narrative of the U.S. city. Although this emphasis on privatization over publicness, capital over collective life, can also be seen (with some variation) in Europe and in many parts of the global south, not least in Dubai, the variation can be significant. To understand how cities engage in projects of, as it were, topographical warfare, we must look at cities in their particularity rather than just comparatively (as global city studies tend to do). We must, moreover, balance an ethnographic sensitivity to symbolic processes and to everyday negotiations of larger political and economic realities with a feeling for the historical development of globalizing cities. This balance I try to achieve with this book.

Success in transnational place wars is not the only objective in the rewriting of the city (123–24). The process of rewriting, of constructing narratives about a city’s identity, is also more localized in its objectives. Cities can often play a central role in national or class agendas, as was per- haps most clear in the case of Brasilia, a new city in the 1950s envisioned by the state to be both an emblem and crucible of Brazilian modernity (Holston 1989). Dubai, in particular the New Dubai, is a quite interesting case because since its establishment in the 1830s, it has been ruled by the Al Maktoum family. In the official view, the town’s identification with the royal family is unchallengeable and absolute. The Maktoum, moreover, claim rights to what the political scientist Waleed Hazbun has called “total territorial control,” a system established in 1960. The Maktoum considered land settled before this time as belonging to its inhabitants, “while all remaining territory, the vast majority of the emirate, was claimed by the ruling family, giving the al-Maktoums and the state complete control over urban planning” (Hazbun, 217). As Abdul Khaleq Abdulla has argued, the Emirati royals have attempted to monopolize definitions of modernity and sovereignty ever since the British recruited them to be imperial protégés in the nineteenth century (1984). Not surprisingly, this has not gone unchallenged, especially during the period of the Dubai reform movements between the 1930s and the 1950s. There is, therefore, and contrary to recent assertions about Dubai’s novelty and radical break with the past, continuity between the New Dubai and the project of the state (or, as I shall be calling it in this book, the Maktoum “family-state”). This continuity is shaped by the local struggle over ideals of modernity and independence, fought over more visibly in the reform period than today, but which continue as the family-state attempts to consolidate its version of New Dubai. By extolling the supposed vision and generosity of the royals, and by foisting a very Westernized, neoliberal notion of modernity onto local society, urbanists such as starchitects perhaps unwittingly legitimize royal ideologies and claims to local historical memory.


[1] The first epigraph in this chapter is taken from Parker, 136–37. Parker says that the source is a “white-collar expatriate” resident of Dubai. “Raghad” in the second epigraph is a pseudonym. Unless they belong to public figures, all names in this book are pseudonyms. I regret that this is the case, but could not avoid the necessity of protecting my interlocutors as much as possible.

[2] This assertion generally holds more for Western journalism than for scholarship, but a lack of theoretical engagement and interest in recent developments in the social sciences also characterizes much scholarship on the region. See Kanna.

[3] Robert Vitalis debunks this, showing how ARAMCO and various Saudi royals, especially Faisal ibn Abd al-Aziz (c. 1904–1975), constructed such a narrative in the case of Saudi Arabia. In this myth, the foreign oil company is represented as altruistic and local elites, the royals and their allies, as forces of modernization, reform, and desert or consultative democracy. Such a narrative has several implications: that neither the oil firm nor the king, for example, are subject to history (simply enacting policies reflecting their altruism) and that the people of the society are voiceless primitives whose interests can only be articulated by the oil firm and the royals (Vitalis). Although differing in important ways from that of Saudi Arabia, the history of the royal families of Abu Dhabi and Dubai is similar in one important sense — the latter, too, were seen, by the colonial regime, as responsible modernizers within their societies.

[4] This is obviously not to deny the persistence, and in the age of the so-called Global War on Terror, mutation of the classic stereotypes of Muslims and Arabs as premodern, savage, inclined to terrorism, etc. Such stereotypes, in fact, seem to be a necessary part of the more positive references to selected enclaves of Arab/ Muslim modernity. See Mamdani’s discussion of the “good Muslim–bad Muslim” dichotomy in Western imperial discourses.

[5] More specifically, Dubai World, until recently headed by Sultan Ahmad bin Sulaym, subsumes the real estate developer Nakheel as a subsidiary; Dubai Holding, headed until recently by Muhammad Al Gergawi, encompasses the real estate developers Dubai Properties, Sama Dubai, and Tatweer (Tatweer’s project, “Dubailand,” mentioned in this book and recently put on hold, was to be an enclave “three times the size of Manhattan”); and EMAAR, headed by Muhammad Al Abbar and responsible for the Burj Dubai, Street of Dreams (see chapter 5), and other projects. See Hall and Salama for an excellent summary.

Works Cited (in excerpt)

Abdulla, Abdul Khaleq. 1984. Political Dependency: The Case of the United Arab Emirates. PhD dissertation. Georgetown University Department of Politics.
———. 2006. “Dubai: Riḥlat Madīna ‛Arabīyya min al-Maḥalliyya ila l-‛Aˉlamīyya” [Dubai: The journey of an Arab City from localism to cosmopolitanism] Al-Mustaqbal al-Arabi 323: 1–28.
Ackley, Brian. n.d. “Permanent Vacation: Making Someplace out of Non-Place.” Bidoun 4.
Ahmad, Aijaz. 1992. In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures. New York: Verso.
Ahmad, Eqbal. 2006. The Selected Writings of Eqbal Ahmad, eds. C. Bengelsdorf, M. Cerullo, and Y. Chandrani. New York: Columbia University Press.
Al Rasheed, Madawi, ed. 2005. Transnational Connections and the Arab Gulf. New York: Routledge.
Friedman, Thomas. 2006. “Dubai and Dunces.” New York Times, March 15.
Fuccaro, Nelida. 2009. Histories of City and State in the Persian Gulf: Manama since 1800. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Ghirardo, Diane, ed. 1991. Out of Site: A Social Criticism of Architecture. Seattle: Bay Press.
Gjørv, Eirin. 2007. “The Sand Castle: The Director’s Take.”
Hall, Camilla, and Vivian Salama. 2009. “Shakeup in Dubai Deposes Principal Emirate Figures: Biographies.", November 24.
Halliday, Fred. 2002. Arabia without Sultans. London: Saqi Books.
Hazbun, Waleed. 2008. Beaches, Ruins, Resorts: The Politics of Tourism in the Arab World. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Heron, Katrina. 1996. “From Bauhaus to Koolhaas.” Wired 4, no. 7, July.
Holston, James. 1989. The Modernist City: An Anthropological Critique of Brasilia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Kanna, Ahmed. 2010. “Flexible Citizenship in Dubai: Corporate Subjectivity in the Emerging City-Corporation.” Cultural Anthropology 25: 100–29.
Koolhaas, Rem. 1978. Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan. New York: Oxford University Press.
———. 2009. “Dubai: From Judgment to Analysis.” Lecture, Sharjah UAE Biennial, March 17.
Lefebvre, Henri. 2003. The Urban Revolution. R. Bononno, trans. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Longva, Anh Nga. 2005. “Neither Autocracy nor Democracy but Ethnocracy: Citizens, Expatriates and the Socio-Political System in Kuwait.” In Monarchies and Nations: Globalization and Identity in the Arab States of the Gulf, eds. Paul Dresch and James Piscatori, 114–35. London: I. B. Tauris.
Mamdani, Mahmood. 2004. Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror. New York: Three Leaves.
Ong, Aihwa. 1999. Flexible Citizenship: The Cultural Logics of Transnationality. Durham: Duke University Press.
Ouroussof, Nicolai. 2008. “City on the Gulf: Koolhaas Lays out a Grand Urban Experiment in Dubai.” New York Times, March 3.
Parker, Ian. 2005. “The Mirage: The Architectural Insanity of Dubai.” New Yorker, October 17: 128–43.
Rosaldo, Renato. 1989. Culture and Truth: The Remaking of Social Analysis. Boston: Beacon Press.
Said, Edward W. 1978. Orientalism. New York: Vintage.
Short, John Rennie. 2006. Urban Theory: A Critical Assessment. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Vitalis, Robert. 2007. America’s Kingdom: Mythmaking on the Saudi Oil Frontier. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.

[Excerpted from Dubai, the City as Corporation by Ahmed Kanna, with permission from The University of Minnesota Press. Copyright © 2011 by the Regents of the University of Minnesota. For more information, or to order the book, click here.]

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The 1967 Defeat and the Conditions of the Now: A Roundtable


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