Gazes that matter: Young emirati women’s spatial practices in Dubai

Source of Publication

Urban Anthropology


© 2015 The Institute, Inc. This article explores how young Emirati women appropriate Dubai’s public spaces and thus contribute to the making of the city. While privileged in terms of nationality and class, their gendered identities complicate Emirati women’s access to public space and make them subject to various restrictions on their mobility. I will first investigate how young women manage their public visibility and construct respectability through their behavior and attire, means of transportation, and the company they keep. I will then explore how local discourses that divide the city into “Emi-rati” and “non-Emirati” places influence young women’s urban trajectories. I will argue that Emirati women are most vulnerable in public places that are frequented by their own compatriots. It is other Emiratis’ gazes that matter the most for the reputation of young women. Other parts of the city, such as New Dubai’s corporate playscapes, are perceived as more liberating in many respects, but often also as alien, intimidating, and unwelcoming. By highlighting the multiple ways in which nationality, gender, and class intersect in Emirati women’s use of the city, this paper illustrates how features of contemporary neoliberal urbanism take on different meanings in the cultural context of the Arab Gulf.

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Author First name, Last name, Institution

Anke Reichenbach, Zayed University

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