Speculative Futures

I’ll be presenting at the upcoming Speculative Futures Graduate Colloquium, one of the culminating events for the Critical Issues in America Series this year at UCSB. The schedule isn’t currently up yet, but I’ll be on an earlier panel looking at global issues. My talk is drawn from the first chapter of my dissertation on Dubai.

My talk is titled: “Free Accommodation and the High Costs of Working in Dubai.” The abstract:

This paper will present a literary and cultural critique of Dubai as a site of risk and temporariness. I argue temporariness is symptomatic of the contemporary period and is produced through the production of space. These spaces (e.g. luxury hotels, shopping malls, labor camps) function by marking different bodies as more or less welcome, more or less temporary, depending on their visibility in and access to certain spaces.

Based purely on speculation and risk-taking, the strategic choices used to establish Dubai’s physical infrastructure, liberal economic environments, and real estate growth have made the emirate attractive to foreign entrepreneurs, tourists, and laborers (who at its peak made up as much as 95 percent of the population). Until the global economic crisis of 2008, Dubai would be the exemplar of hypercapitalism and neoliberal economic policy.

This unfettered growth has been accompanied by high costs, however. This paper will examine of these costs for the foreign laboring classes. Though Dubai appears to be an opportunity for these workers (mainly South Asian and Pacific Islander), their status in Dubai is precarious as they form a class of perpetual foreigners living in constant instability in an inhospitable host country. To that end, this paper will bring together traditional “literary” (i.e. novels: Layover in Dubai) and “non-literary” texts (e.g. journalistic reports, NGO reports, business correspondences) to examine the spatial and temporal circumstances of the most temporary of individuals and how they destabilize representations of their own precarity.

Many thanks to Dana Solomon, Lindsay Thomas, and the rest of the Speculative Futures Colloquium committee, as well as Bishnupriya Ghosh (best chair EVAR!), Rita Raley, Bhaskar Sarkar, Greg Siegel, the American Cultures & Global Contexts Center, the Transcriptions Center, et al. for making this past year at UCSB so extraordinary!

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