GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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History Re-invented: The Revival of the Old Bahraini City
Paper Proposal Text :
The development of the main cities of Bahrain, mainly Manama and Muharraq, reflect a complex history of urbanization in the Gulf. The shift from an economy based on pearl trading, agriculture industries and trading to one that is mainly dependent on oil, has set cities in Bahrain on a rapid process of growth. Bahrain provides a unique case in the gulf in which skyscrapers and modern architecture are situated within close proximity to old remnants of the Bahraini pre-oil cities. For instance, unlike Kuwait, old houses, neighborhoods and markets were not removed to make way for modern architectural development, leaving the physical structures of the old cities intact. Even though the majority of local populations have moved away from these areas, which are now predominately occupied by low to low-middle class migrant workers, the past decade has brought about a top-down process that has aimed towards renovating and reinventing the old Manama and Muharraq. Old neighborhoods and houses are turned into museums, cafes and cultural centers, attracting both tourists and locals who are seeking to reconnect with an invented Bahraini past. This paper is going to explore this process of cultural commodification. It will examine the new-old Manama and Muharraq as elements of a state-sanctioned narrative. The paper will first overview Bahrain’s process of nation-building, starting from independence in 1971, it will then move to explain how the old cities of Manama and Muharraq are being resurrected to become cultural and tourist attractions and how this process contributes to an official narrative of history, as well as impact historical and identity perceptions. It will finally assess this process’ success and whether it is capable of meeting its objectives.