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Everyday Life in the ‘Spectacular’ City: Making Home in Dubai

Rana AlMutawa, NYU, Abu Dhabi

October 25, 2022 · 12:00 pm1:00 pm · 202 Jones Hall and Zoom

The Institute for the Transregional Study, NES

This talk will present an urban ethnography that reveals how middle class-citizens and long-time residents of Dubai interact with the city’s spectacular and so-called “superficial” spaces to create meaningful social lives. It will argue that residents adapt themselves to imposed spectacular structures, such as big shopping malls and new developments, while also making these same structures serve their own evolving social needs. By offering an alternative to the discourse of authenticity, elucidating the dynamics of ambivalent belonging, and theorizing adaptive agency, this talk will challenge the popular and scholarly stereotypes that portray Dubai’s developments as “inauthentic,” objectively alienating, and inherently disempowering. Moreover, it will present adaptation as a new framework for understanding how contemporary subjects operate beyond the conceptual binary of resistance and capitulation in relating themselves and their communities to the increasingly twinned developments of illiberal society and neoliberal spectacle.

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