Ahmed Kanna: “De-Exceptionalizing the Arab Gulf: Bringing back Class Struggle & Social Reproduction” 4.24.19
Ahmed Kanna is associate professor of anthropology at University of the Pacific. He is the author of Dubai: The City as Corporation (2011, University of Minnesota Press), De-Exceptionalizing the Field (with Amelie Le Renard and Neha Vora, forthcoming, Cornell University Press), and articles in Cultural Anthropology, City, and Arab Studies Journal among others. Discourses of urban knowledge professionals (architects, PR professionals, etc.) on the Arab Gulf city have framed this city as an “laboratory,” a “sci-fi” space, and generally have disconnected the space from its social and historical contexts. In this paper I argue that a Marxist or class struggle perspective can best highlight how such discourses promote imperial and capitalist class power in the Gulf. Through combining this framework with a postcolonial discursive critique and feminist scholarship on social reproduction, a class struggle perspective both moves us beyond victimization discourses of Gulf labor and highlights global patterns of capitalist accumulation. In turn, the paper shows how the Gulf is an unexceptional zone of capital accumulation with labor exploitation and social reproduction regimes continuous with, and shaped by, similar such regimes in the Global North.
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