Diverse and newly emerging development circumstances in various parts of the world force us to rethink how cities come into being, how their internal geographic emplacements operate, and how, as a result, their mechanisms of exclusion manage to function. Our particular focus is on the rising “showcase cities” (as we term them) on the southern shore of the Persian Gulf – the subset of places representing extremes of wealth, spectacle, and global significance: Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha (we include other examples from the region as special relevance arises). Buildings, land, and infrastructure are both substance and method to our effort. Understanding their dynamics of geo-separation—our primary effort here – sheds light on general functioning of political economy, nature, and culture. Some key elements from Western urban scholarship have only limited bearing. Civic initiative and popular resistance recede in relevance where there are no political parties, no meaningful elections, and apart from government sanctioned charities, few civic institutions. No “right to the city” is even acknowledged. There are virtually no neighborhood groups or any other territorial mode of Western-like residential or business association. Fast speeds of building approval, finance, and construction disturb conventional notions of development temporality. Huge shopping malls are built before there is a residential population to provide customers; airports can come into being before there is passenger demand. Settlements can be cleared of users and new infrastructures slid quickly into place. Permissive regimes of authority, technology, and labor allow construction 24-7. Standard doctrines like central place theory, agglomeration economies, or ethnic succession apply, if at all, only problematically. Nor, however, are these places where “Arab” or “Islamic” can serve as replacement. Islamic culture is surely important, but – as Orientalist critics would warn –only as one aspect of a complexly interconnected range of dynamic forces (Moser 2019). One of those forces is zeal for worldly cosmopolitanism, side-by-side by whatever has come before. Reliance on the fact of Islam, left on its own, effaces too much that is obviously significant (see Abu-Lughod 1987). Looking at what happens “on the ground” (glitter included) helps, as antidote, to show the actual role of belief systems, Islamic or otherwise. Left to now explain the ultra-contemporary outcomes, we need – perhaps ironically – to make use of some very old-fashioned ideas. Key among them, we think, is the everyday notion of work-around. In a locally useful way, work-arounds help obscure, bypass, or silence frictions between the elite’s great goals of global cosmopolitanism with long-standing kin-based traditions and religious doctrine. In effect the work-arounds help reconcile substantial inconsistencies, minimizing political, economic or cultural disruption. Continuous adjustments enable cities to contain diverse peoples, goals, and even “truths,” while maintaining social coexistence and dynamic momentum. It is done, no small matter, with attentiveness to global narratives of what makes for great cities – including in-vogue concepts of creativity, best practices, sustainability, and even social inclusion. The mixed urban cases that come about are themselves being imitated in parts of the world with very different political and social structures – and without the money.

Enacting Exclusion in Contemporary Gulf Cities

D. Ponzini
2020

Abstract

Diverse and newly emerging development circumstances in various parts of the world force us to rethink how cities come into being, how their internal geographic emplacements operate, and how, as a result, their mechanisms of exclusion manage to function. Our particular focus is on the rising “showcase cities” (as we term them) on the southern shore of the Persian Gulf – the subset of places representing extremes of wealth, spectacle, and global significance: Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha (we include other examples from the region as special relevance arises). Buildings, land, and infrastructure are both substance and method to our effort. Understanding their dynamics of geo-separation—our primary effort here – sheds light on general functioning of political economy, nature, and culture. Some key elements from Western urban scholarship have only limited bearing. Civic initiative and popular resistance recede in relevance where there are no political parties, no meaningful elections, and apart from government sanctioned charities, few civic institutions. No “right to the city” is even acknowledged. There are virtually no neighborhood groups or any other territorial mode of Western-like residential or business association. Fast speeds of building approval, finance, and construction disturb conventional notions of development temporality. Huge shopping malls are built before there is a residential population to provide customers; airports can come into being before there is passenger demand. Settlements can be cleared of users and new infrastructures slid quickly into place. Permissive regimes of authority, technology, and labor allow construction 24-7. Standard doctrines like central place theory, agglomeration economies, or ethnic succession apply, if at all, only problematically. Nor, however, are these places where “Arab” or “Islamic” can serve as replacement. Islamic culture is surely important, but – as Orientalist critics would warn –only as one aspect of a complexly interconnected range of dynamic forces (Moser 2019). One of those forces is zeal for worldly cosmopolitanism, side-by-side by whatever has come before. Reliance on the fact of Islam, left on its own, effaces too much that is obviously significant (see Abu-Lughod 1987). Looking at what happens “on the ground” (glitter included) helps, as antidote, to show the actual role of belief systems, Islamic or otherwise. Left to now explain the ultra-contemporary outcomes, we need – perhaps ironically – to make use of some very old-fashioned ideas. Key among them, we think, is the everyday notion of work-around. In a locally useful way, work-arounds help obscure, bypass, or silence frictions between the elite’s great goals of global cosmopolitanism with long-standing kin-based traditions and religious doctrine. In effect the work-arounds help reconcile substantial inconsistencies, minimizing political, economic or cultural disruption. Continuous adjustments enable cities to contain diverse peoples, goals, and even “truths,” while maintaining social coexistence and dynamic momentum. It is done, no small matter, with attentiveness to global narratives of what makes for great cities – including in-vogue concepts of creativity, best practices, sustainability, and even social inclusion. The mixed urban cases that come about are themselves being imitated in parts of the world with very different political and social structures – and without the money.
Spatial Justice in the City
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11311/1126460
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