High-rise Dubai urban entrepreneurialism and the technology of symbolic power

Michele Acuto

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Twenty-first century metropolises are often engaged in a rivalry for primacy in many different geographical scales. Dubai, a relatively new urban settlement, is not immune from such endeavor. The Emirate has undertaken an impressive urban revolution in a rather explicit attempt to become a novel New York.This viewpoint explores the present evolution of the city, illustrating how a centralized and hyper-entrepreneurial approach has characterized Dubai's attempt to ascend in the 'world urban hierarchy' and establish itself as the image of the 21st century metropolis. Contrary to much of the eulogistic take that often features in city rankings, an analysis of this venture through the city's contemporary urban restructuring unveils the problematic social effects of Dubai's quest for " symbolic power" - that technique of 'worldmaking' that confers influence by constituting the given by stating and mediating it. The compulsive sprawl of 'icons' and 'vertical cities' associated with this practice might set the Emirate on a perilous course with disastrous social consequences. In this view, the article draws upon some of the most astonishing works-in-progress of this city - and the Burj Dubai in primis - to explain the complexity of this power, and the many contradictions that can arise with it as quickly as Dubai's skyscrapers.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)272-284
    JournalCities: the international journal of urban policy and planning
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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