GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
‘If you build it – they will come’ – Future sense-making and visionary urban development in Qatar
Paper Proposal Text :
To justify large-scale urban development projects, urban planners in the Arab Gulf frequently point to their projects’ future potentials for national progress and international prestige. In this article, I analyse how this practice of ‘future sense-making’ has acquired a political and legitimizing dimension in the rapid urbanisation projects taking place in and around Qatar’s capital city Doha. Fuelled by a mixture of the local regime’s political aspirations and the availability of necessary funds from the sale of natural resources, urban development in the small Sheikhdom has reached a staggering stage, some six years before the country is due to host the FIFA World Cup. Drawing on mixed-methods field work in 2015 and 2016, as well as an analysis of official and media documents, I argue that urban development in Qatar – and potentially in other cities along the Arab Gulf more broadly – has taken on a distinctive political tone in relation to the state’s overall development project. Following a more general discussion of the prevalent discourse of the future worth of urbanisation, I will discuss in more detail the state’s single largest development project, Lusail City, which is taking shape north of Doha. Eventually, the article will close with considering the role of falling oil prices on Qatar’s ‘petro-urbanism’, and reflect on how discourse might shift once future reference points start coming closer.

Key Words: urbanisation, future sense-making, leadership visions, Qatar, Lusail City