Dubai in the ‘Middle’


In the early 2000s, Dubai seemed the apotheosis of the global city model. Lauded as an embodiment of globalist ideals, or harshly criticized as a representation of the dangers of contemporary urbanism, it was clearly under the spotlight. Then, like the concept of the ‘global city’ itself, it disappeared from the headlines, to be subject only to sporadic and cynical attention. Today some are heralding a ‘return’ of Dubai from the anonymity of the middle ground of global city hierarchies and rankings. What is often forgotten, however, is that urbanism in Dubai did not stop. On the contrary, Dubai’s continuous ‘worlding’ offers a productive opportunity for the encounter of ‘global’ and ‘ordinary’ modes of urban analysis. By unpacking the construction of a global Dubai, this article advocates greater sensitivity to the multiscalar politics that shape its continuity. Stepping beyond rumours of crisis and decline, it aims to connect the global fortunes and everyday processes that jointly characterize the development of global cities. ‘Global’ and ‘ordinary’ urbanism, it argues, are but two registers of how we could, in Warren Magnusson’s words, ‘see like a city’.