Erin Fuller21 November 201776-101: Interpretation and Argument Section JJProfessor S. Riess Gentrification vs. Urban Development:A Study of DubaiAbstract There is a fine and fuzzy linebetween gentrification and urban development.
Through this research, I am usingDubai as a case study in the differences between gentrification and urbandevelopment. By looking directly at the history and success of Dubai and thedefinitions of gentrification and urban development, and not looking intoopinions claiming Dubai is or is not a gentrified area, I was able to make myconclusion that Dubai is not a gentrified area, rather an urban developmentsuccess. Acknowledgements Before beginning, I would like tothank Professor Scott Riess for his dedication to this class, the topic and theintellectual growth of not just me, but all his students.
Introduction In this paper, I am working todiscover the economic movers of rapid urban development in Dubai. Dubai is aspecial case I want to look at rather than a Western city such as Paris, Londonor an American city; from what I understand the current conversation is stuckin a loop talking about Western cities that urbanized during or shortly afterthe industrial revolution; cities that quickly jumped into capitalism andeventually had a fall that lead to a poor economic time and now that money isbeing brought back into the city it is causing either “gentrification”, whichis negative, or “economic development”, less talked about because seen as positive.I want to discuss a non-Western example; I specifically chose Dubai becausemore than half of the population are immigrants, since “outsiders” are usuallyconsidered the perpetrators of gentrification. Dubai is located in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the Middle East.It was a small village until foreign investments flowed in during the late 20thCentury and rapidly urbanized the desert. I want to ask: how has Dubai gottento its current state, and is this really gentrification? A study of “gentrification”and “urban development” in a “new city”.
This is critical to understand becauseas an ever more interconnected global society is important for the youth andthose who will have power in the future to think on a global scale, not just ina context they are familiar and comfortable with. Also important is looking atthe issue of gentrification in non-Western areas to see how other factors suchas time and growth, economic, demographic and physical, play intogentrification. With so many governments and economic systems worldwide it isunjust and naïve to assume all gentrification occurs under the same process. A BreakdownThe Beginning Finding its place between theouter edge of the Rub’ al Khali, the largest continuous sand desert in theworld, and the Persian Gulf, Dubai has drastically transformed from smallvillage to shining spectacle. Unlike most current global metropolises, Dubaidoes not have a long history of being an urban center, for political oreconomic reasons. Settlement of Dubai occurred in 1799, and unlike London andParis was not propelled into modernity during the industrial revolution of theeighteenth century. Rather, Dubai was still a small pearl fishing village oftwelve hundred inhabitants along the Dubai Creek when the Maktoum family tookrein in 1883 and continued to be an important port on the Persian Gulf with anemphasis on pearl exports well into the twentieth century. After winningindependence from Great Britain in 1971, Dubai along with six other statesformed the United Arab Emirates, the UAE (“Dubai”).
The Power The UAE established themselvesunder a federal presidential elected monarchy. This means there are sevenabsolute monarchs, one for each of the seven emirates, and the president of theUAE is elected from the seven. So for clarification, Khalifa bin Zayidal-Nuhayyan is both the ruler of the Abu Dhabi Emirate, as well as thePresident of the UAE. And the Emir of Dubai, the highest ruler, Muhammad binRashid al-Maktum, is also the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE(“The Political System of the UAE”). This federal structure was put in place sothat each of the emirates maintained some power to themselves. Because eachemirate had their own form of government before uniting into the UAE, it isimportant they have relative independence.
This government structure plays animportant role in growth. The Money Dubai managed to be a smallvillage until they struck oil in 1966 in the Fateh Oil Field, 60 miles off theDubai Coast but still within their border waters. Production and exportationbegan three years later and since that time more fields were discovered andproduced. Dubai has about four billion barrels of oil left in reserve, allowingthem around 20 more years of oil production (“Oil in Dubai: History &Timeline”). The largest oil producer in the emirate, Dubai Petroleum, is afully government-run operation since conception in 1963 (“Our History”).
Thisallowed a large influx of capital into Dubai through the government. Because Dubai as an emirate hadthe autonomy over their economy, they declared themselves a Free Trade Zone,sometimes called a “Free Economic Zone” or “Free Economic Territory”, after thediscovery of oil. A Free Trade Zone (FTZ) is a: “geographically demarcated areawithin certain governmental taxes and regulation that apply to the rest of theeconomy are waived completely or for a defined time. Including total orrelative shelter from corporate and income tax, import duties and quotas, andforeign ownership restrictions”.
It has been proven that FTZs arean example of local strategies working in collaboration with the internationalprocess of globalization to create new economic and political connections andrelationships. Because the UAE formed at a mature point in the globalizationprocess, long after the first wave of industrialization, the Dubai Emirate wasable to use current cities as case studies to strategically position themselvesto have an economically prosperous future. FTZs are radical because theyquestion traditional globalization processes because it makes solid land justas fluid as currency, this economic strategy is dissolving territory andborders; they are what started the “offshore account” phenomenon by providingindividuals or companies financial and legal advantages. FTZ’s are thought to help late developingeconomies enter the “world economy” with solid exports, foreign investments,and leaving the burden of past parochial limits.
Dubai being a late developingeconomy since they did not strike oil until the mid-twentieth century. Dubai’sFTZ, along with Iran’s, was more posed to create power than money. Goals of theFTZ included: “state formation”, meaning further sovereignty and freedom as anemirate, as well as “projection of power”, showing that Dubai is more than oil(Keshavarzian, Arang).
Dubai’s first FTZ, Jebel Ali,dates back to 1985, and since then 21 new FTZs have appeared. Most of the zonesare based on a particular industry. This zoning was used as a strategy toaddress the shifting geopolitical and regional context. The FTZ’s offercontinual growth, regardless that the oil industry is dying. For example, in2013, the number of companies in the FTZs grew by fourteen percent, andeighteen percent in 2014. The diversified economic portfolio of Dubai, is whatallowed Dubai to bounce back from the 2008 crisis, in 2009 the economy onlycontracted by two and a half percent (“Dubai’s Economy: Growing Up”). The Show The result of this excellent economic strategythat allowed for continued rapid growth is the flash and glam we see today in Dubai(as seen in Figure 1). First noticed arethe sparkling new, beautiful pieces of architecture.
Steven Holl,world-renowned architect, argues in the op-ed, “Steven Holl on the rash of”profane” slim towers in New York” that the new ultra-thin towers in New YorkCity are architectural symbols of wealth that highlights America’s extreme incomedisparity. He claims that these towers are negating the spiritual purpose oftheir religious precursors, but these $90 million apartments will often noteven be lived in by their wealthy owners. Holl believes that architecturespeaks to represent the society of the present to the future; however, theimage and wealth-obsessed symbolism of these spires, rather than using them assymbolism for public spaces, does not reflect well on who we are today (Holl,Steven). This argument is important to note because a major reason Dubai is sowell known is the cutting edge and very extravagant architecture, and largeconglomeration of starchitect buildings. It is interesting how double standardswork: praising the construction fights to be the world’s tallest building inDubai but shaming the Big Apple’s skyscrapers.
Is this because Dubai is builton a desert and New York is built on other buildings that hold memory andculture? It seems there is a nostalgic aspect to gentrification that is nottangible or quantifiable. The economic growth also caused adrastic social and demographic change. Of the nearly three million residents ofDubai, only around ten percent are genuine Emirati with Dubai citizenship. Theremaining ninety percent are expatriate, or expats, temporarily or permanentlyresiding in Dubai with citizenship elsewhere. This is a unique place, where theimmigrants, typically a minority, are truly the majority. The expat populationis made up mainly of Brits, Syrians, Pakistanis, Iranians, Ethiopians, and Filipinos.And according to Annabel Kantaria, the expats and local Emirati do not mixwell.
To support this is a 2015 InterNations survey, finding forty-two percentof UAE expats feel they have integrated well with the Emirati, a drasticcomparison to the global average of 61 percent. The wealth of Dubai creates abubble for the expats and it is hard for expats and Emirati to interact becausethey are often not in the same spheres of life. Though some can be verywealthy, expats are not all rich, and in fact, make up the majority of theconstruction industry when compared to Emirati.
The two populations leaddifferent ways of life, influenced largely by religion, so it can be hard forthe two to connect and relate when expats may not even be staying in Dubai verylong (Kantaria, Annabel). Word PlayThe G-Word The word “gentrification” wasfirst coined by Ruth Glass, German-born British sociologist. In theintroduction to London: Aspects of Change, she remarked:”One by one, many of the working classquarters have been invaded by the middle class – upper and lower ..
. Once thisprocess of ‘gentrification’ starts in a district it goes on rapidly until allor most of the working class occupiers are displaced and the whole socialcharacter of the district is changed”This definition ofgentrification, written in 1964, has stuck with sociologists, planners,historians and activists to define a rapid contemporary change that affects thegeneral social profile of a city (Glass). Jane Jacobs, prominentAmerican-Canadian urban, social and economic critic of the 1960s, was incorrespondence with Glass’s views. In 1961, Jacobs wrote “The Death and Life ofGreat American Cities”, in which she criticizes the ineffectiveness of majorAmerican metropolitan areas. She was very influential in New York City urbanplanning and social behaviors through the built environment (Gratz, Roberta). In “The Right to theCity”, originally published in the September/October 2008 edition of theprint academic journal New Left Review, David Harvey, distinguished professorof anthropology and geography at the Graduate Center of the City University ofNew York, is exploring is the relationship of rapid urbanization andunregulated capitalism on human rights and quality of life through historicalcase studies. Harvey believes that capitalism’s negative effects on humanity’srights and outlooks should be changed by means of revolution and democratizethe economy. He claims the cause of the downfall of cities that becameurbanized is because capitalism emerged as an economic system; it is able to becompared and contrasted with Dubai because Dubai urbanized long aftercapitalism emerged.
And maybe that is the secret, cities urbanized before weunderstood how to use the capitalist system? Or maybe it can be used as aprediction that Dubai like all capitalist empires will fall at some point. Observers of urban change haveadopted the term “gentrification” to describe involuntary residentialdisplacement caused by the return of affluent gentry from suburbia towell-located but deteriorated inner city areas (Bryant and McGee). All of theseesteemed people of their field are all in agreeance that gentrification is anegative process to current residents. Though not all say it is negative;Matthew J. Kiefer in “The Upside of Gentrification”, published in the HarvardDesign Magazine F/W 2006, argues that though gentrification can be a verynegative process, the negative effects “are out-weighed by its benefits”. Hefocused mostly on economic impacts and looked through the lens of taxation tocome to his conclusion (Kiefer, Matthew).
Linking back to Dubai, ifgentrification, as defined by the current conversation, is about an upper-classinvasion of a previously poor area, what is all-class immigration to anall-class area? Flip Side On the topic of the urbanlandscape changing, physically and socially, is “urban development” or”planning”, “renewal”, or “revitalization”. Urban Planning is the “design andregulation of the uses of space that focus on the physical form, economic functions,and social impacts of the urban environment and on the location of differentactivities within it”. It can be a complicated process pulling from alldifferent disciplines, engineering, architecture, political and social, inorder to produce the most desirable outcome in terms of economics, social andhealth welfare of an urban area. The process may not be perfect, but change isdemanded to keep up with current times. Many urban planning strategies began todevelop around the industrial age.
Some key cities that started urban planningwere Paris and New York. Important to note that urban development happens inall economic systems, whereas gentrification is often blamed on or a process ofthe capitalist economic system (Fainstein, Susan). Relation + Conclusion Dubai is a very complex place. While modern and progressive,it still has strong roots in its traditional Muslim culture. After serious andin-depth research, I do not believe the case of Dubai can be claimed asgentrification. Dubai is a case of successful urban planning and developmentthrough a well-structured capitalist system. It would be unfair to genuinelycall this gentrification, because though there was massive immigration andpopulation inflow to Dubai’s urban area it was by no means what has been seen inNew York or Paris or gentrified Western areas. Local Emirati were notdisplaced, rather the city we see today was built around the culture.
There isa small part of the now large city called “Old Dubai”, which has originalstructures from the small villages beginning. Another reason this cannot begentrification, because gentrification is an influx of “middle and upper class”into “lower class”; Dubai’s expat population makes up the whole income range,as does the local Emirati population. Most importantly is the lack of outrage.
Critics of the development in New York and Paris claim gentrification becausethere was a long history pre-urbanization. Both having substantial settlementsbefore industrialization, urbanization, and post-war industrialization occurring,causing residents to hold on to their past; whereas in Dubai the “past” hasn’tbeen there as long and those who were in power of causing change (searching foroil and introducing FTZs) are Dubai insiders, not outsiders. Works Cited “Dubai.
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