GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Migrant Heritage and Identity in Gulf Cities
Paper Proposal Text :
City branding in the Gulf is emerging as a significant global process, and is one that is intimately linked to cultural heritage development (Hubbard and Hall, 1998; Massey, 2007). This is something that is becoming increasingly apparent within Gulf cities where regional and global identity development is high on the agenda. For example, the Qatar National Vision 2030 sets out the government’s US$15 billion master plan, which provides a framework for Qatar’s development and outlines a number of significant high profile projects such as the National Museum of Qatar (Ministry of Development Planning and Services, Accessed Online 12 November 2013). These development plans set out the national and global outlook for Qatar’s future in a similar way to Abu Dhabi’s, Plan Abu Dhabi 2030. This illustrates how cities are finding it necessary to craft a global brand identity in order to compete globally (Dicks, 2003: 17). In the Gulf States this is being achieved, in part, through the development of high-profile cultural heritage projects and the development of global tourism.
The development of new large-scale museum projects in the Gulf has generated significant media attention and speculation. Developments such as these have garnered the interest of academic researchers and museum and heritage practitioners, both within and outside of the Gulf States. The result of this interest is that a range of debates have begun to emerge exploring the production and presentation of museums and heritage institutions within the Gulf. These debates have largely focused upon ‘officially’ sanctioned expressions of local and global heritage formations. What is missing from these discussions is a consideration of alternative forms of heritage, forms that give voice and visibility to those individuals who are excluded from ‘official’ heritage narratives and large-scale global museum developments.
This paper will seek to explore how migrant and low-paid workers are using different spaces within Gulf cities to express and inscribe their heritage and consequently their identities. Using data from observations and interviews within city spaces in Abu Dhabi and Dubai this paper will seek to explore and understand how different spaces in Gulf cities, such as empty plots on building sites, public parks, and museum gardens, are used by migrant workers as active spaces of identity and heritage creation. These expressions offer a unique window from which to explore migrant identity and the ways in which ‘unofficial’ heritage is produced and made visible within the Gulf.