Rana AlMutawa, "Everyday Life in the Spectacular City: Making Home in Dubai" (U California Press, 2024)


Everyday Life in the Spectacular City: Making Home in Dubai (U California Press, 2024) is a groundbreaking urban ethnography that reveals how middle-class citizens and longtime residents of Dubai interact with the city's so-called superficial spaces to create meaningful social lives. Rana AlMutawa shows that inhabitants adapt themselves to top-down development projects, from big malls to megaprojects. These structures serve residents' evolving social needs, transforming Dubai's spectacular spaces into personally important cultural sites. These practices are significant because they expand our understanding of agency as not only subversive but also adaptive. Through extensive fieldwork, AlMutawa, herself an Emirati native to Dubai, finds a more nuanced story of belonging. This story does not seek to uncover the "real" city that lies beneath the veneer of the spectacle, but rather to demonstrate that social meanings and forms of belonging take place within the spectacle itself. By offering an alternative to the discourse of authenticity and elucidating the dynamics of ambivalent belonging, AlMutawa belies stereotypes that portray Dubai's developments as alienating and inherently disempowering. Everyday Life in the Spectacular City speaks beyond the Middle East to a globalized phenomenon, for Dubai's spectacles are unexceptional in today's changing world.

Michael O. Johnston, Ph.D. is a Assistant Professor of Sociology at William Penn University. He is the author of The Social Construction of a Cultural Spectacle: Floatzilla (Lexington Books, 2023) and Community Media Representations of Place and Identity at Tug Fest: Reconstructing the Mississippi River (Lexington Books, 2022). His general area of study is about the construction of identity and place. He is currently conducting research for his next project that looks at nightlife and the emotional labor that is performed by bouncers at bars and nightclubs. To learn more about Michael O. Johnston you can go to his website, Google Scholar, Twitter @ProfessorJohnst, or by email at johnstonmo@wmpenn.edu.

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Michael Johnston

Michael O. Johnston, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at William Penn University.

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