GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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The Price of Branding: tourism and the elusive search for "culture" among Emiratis in Dubai, UAE
Paper Proposal Text :
Branding Dubai has required creating the image of a cosmopolitan environment compatible with other global cities, yet maintaining itself as different from the rest. In promotion of tourism, the use of cultural legacy to distinguish its uniqueness has been an instrumental feature. However, the problem lies in how notion of cultural legacies are constructed and promoted to tourists and in turn, projected onto the local Emirati population as part of constructing the Emirati identity. Increasingly recognized as the Mecca of capitalist commodity consumption in the world, the legacy of devotion to Islam and tribal practices in Dubai come into direct contrast with now emerging notions of belonging within the emirate. Based around this notion of consumption, maintaining the Dubai brand also requires a continuous, large scale importation of human resources as a consequence of which Emiratis now make up less than fifteen percent of the population in the Emirate. This paper evaluates how efforts to brand Dubai as a specific tourist destination within this discourse contributes to the emergence of new meanings and locations of differences for the local, Emirati population. The paper also examines how demarcation and re-construction of urban, rural and natural spaces as representations of local heritage and legacy for the tourist gaze contributes to creation of new meanings through which the citizens of the state attempt to identify themselves as Emiratis. Furthermore, the paper investigates how the re-appropriation of various tourist spaces and practices to continuously create new ideas of legacy to maintain Dubai as an attractive destination for tourists alters how Emiratis consume the Dubai brand and at the same time, conceptualize and accommodate this shift in their heritage and legacy, in shaping their understanding of the past and more importantly, their notions of belonging for the future in this rapidly changing landscape.