“Less revealed through crisis have been the domestic social repercussions of Dubai’s openness to the world. Segregating and then expelling foreign workers when they attempt to strike is one manifestation. But the reaction from citizens is difficult to observe. High-profile arrests and the hunt for Muslim Brothers in the wake of the 2011 uprisings suggest that locals are not as quiescent as assumed. Maintaining the façade of a socially conservative Dubai (Muslims do not buy alcohol and women do not wear short dresses in public) requires not only increasing financial rents to the locals but also their own segregation. Over the years, the areas of the city occupied primarily by citizens have shifted, but the imperative to keep the locals away from the expatriates has remained. As the city has grown, new enclaves have opened to service this isolation of the citizenry, a tiny, ultra-privileged minority who are fearful of living in a city they did not build. Their educational facilities are handsome, but appearances deceive: Dubai has high secondary-school dropout rates and remedial programs at the university level are common. Decades of programs to push nationals into private-sector employment are rolled out again and again, only to fail again and again since unproductive public-sector jobs are so much easier. Expatriates express disgust with Dubai’s citizens, as they do throughout the Gulf, but few pause to ponder whether the sons and daughters of the sheikhs are more effects than causes of the boom-and-bust societies in which they live. Indeed, the most damning failure of Dubai’s development may be the cultivation of a feudatory younger generation.”
Assistant Professor, Middle East Political Economy, at the University of Oregon. Currently writing on the Egyptian revolution and the Syrian crisis.
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