GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Title of Paper:
On the Visual Apartheid of Minorities: Architectural Hegemony in the Gulf Urban Landscape
Paper Proposal Text :
In architecture the physical markings of power regimes past and present are rendered visible. From principalities to nation-states the hegemonic powers have utilized architecture and urban planning to create and imprint their power structure on the physical space and place of each power regime’s time period. Today the Gulf is undergoing the stitching together of “East” and “West”, global flows of tourists, businesses and intellectual traffic as well as the addition of the immigrant population that has been marketed and recruited to rebuild and “modernize” the region. With any regime change or economic boom a shift in architectural representation also takes place in order to redirect memory to shine new or revitalized light on a particular era that is in line with the ideals and discourse of the new ruling elite. At the heart of power is the idea of what is deemed preservable, what should be demolished and who or what should be silenced.
My paper studies the silencing effects of the immigrant in the Gulf through the analysis of urban architecture and its paratexts in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar. The Arabian Gulf has undergone a significant economic shift. With this shift came the restructuring and mass building projects to urbanize the landscape. This restructuring is built by the immigrant population but visually reflects the elite. This exchange needs to be problematized, analyzed with a critical lens in order to see who lies behind the urbanization projects. The reimagining of the Gulf attributes to an architecturally hegemonic landscape that silences the minority voices. The visual text effectively, turns its gaze from the subaltern which effects the current conversations of what it means to be part of the Gulf.
My paper outlines what it means to be part of the imagined ideal and the othering that takes place in the contemporary Gulf urban landscape. I argue that beyond the literary and spoken hegemonies of the region, the visual architecture of the urban landscape must also be analyzed according to power structures and marginalized voices. A critical approach is taken and a reinterpreting of Gerard Genette’s literary method of paratexts is applied and appropriated to broaden the thresholds of interpretation to include architecture as “the text” from which to analyze the hegemonic power structure embedded in the urban landscape. Paratexts are the secondary and tertiary texts associated with a main text. “The public epitext” encompasses the media articles surrounding the main text. In my work this is true of the newspaper articles surrounding the sites of my case studies in Dubai, Abu Dhabi & Qatar. The public epitexts are gathered from internet posted newspaper articles from Khaleej Times Online, Al Jazeera English, Die Welt Online, The New York Times and News Bank. This research project does not delve into the political economy of these epitext sources or the technological aspect of online news articles. Rather it stands to show that the public sphere in this paper consists of the reading publics associated with these epitexts.
What does this material silencing and visual marginalization contribute to questions of identity, acceptance and monoculturalism or multiculturalism in the Gulf? How has architecture influenced the narrative of what it means to be part of the Gulf? At the core of my research is the idea of visual apartheid. I will work to define and categorize this construct, which states that contemporary political correctness silences the discourse of racism linguistically, while visually (through architectural pursuits) the oppression of minority voices remains strong.