June 13, 2024

Kutubna Cultural Center opens Dubai documentary photo exhibition

Kutubna Cultural Center, Dubai’s newest independent bookstore and cultural center, today announced the opening of Dr. Rana AlMutawa’s urban ethnography photo exhibition “Everyday Life in the Spectacular City”. The exhibition is free to attend and runs from May 12 until July 4, 2024, at Kutubna Cultural Center in Nadd Al Hamar.

The exhibition is Dr. AlMutawa’s first solo exhibition in Dubai. The photographs in the exhibit form a part of the research that Dr. AlMutawa conducted for her book, Everyday Life in the Spectacular City: Making home in Dubai. Published by the University of California Press, the book is a pioneering urban ethnography that explores how middle-class citizens and longtime residents of Dubai interact with the city’s spaces to create meaningful social lives.

The exhibition showcases over 33 documentary photographs taken during Dr.AlMutawa’s fieldwork from 2017-2021. The photos highlight the forms of belonging that take place in shopping malls and other so-called superficial spaces and demonstrate that inhabitants do make meanings within the spectacle.

In her book, Dr. AlMutawa shows that development projects from big malls to megaprojects serve residents’ evolving social needs, transforming Dubai’s spectacular spaces into personally important cultural sites. Through extensive fieldwork, Dr. AlMutawa, herself an Emirati, finds a nuanced story of belonging that rejects stereotypes portraying Dubai’s developments as alienating and inherently disempowering.

The book delves into three interconnected themes, “authenticity,” belonging/exclusion, and agency. When people talk about Dubai as a “superficial” city, they expect that inhabitants must be alienated there. In such narratives, inhabitants are depicted almost as victims in cities changing beyond their consent, lacking in agency. Both the book and the photos address these themes as well as many subthemes under them, such as cosmopolitanism, social hierarchies, and inequality.

Commenting on the exhibition, Dr. AlMutawa said: “Everyday Life in the Spectacular City” was borne out of many frustrations, especially the Orientalist narratives about places like Dubai.

I want to show that “superficial” places are important cultural sites: ones where people go to see and to be seen by members of their community; where people have memories from their childhoods; and where social and gender norms are observed and negotiated. I hope that the book and exhibition can generate more debate about how to go about understanding these places without repeating the stereotype about inauthentic Gulf cities.”

Last Updated on 1 month by Middle East News 247

    Middle East News 247

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