“Rhythms of Abu Dhabi” exhibition. The Transformative Power of the Anthropocene, Project Space, NYUAD, 2022.

“Rhythms of Abu Dhabi” exhibition. The Transformative Power of the Anthropocene, Project Space, NYUAD, 2022.

Participation in Abu Dhabi’s Public Spaces

In collaboration with colleagues Laure Assaf and Piia Mustamaki alongside a team of student ethnographers, we explore how do residents experience Abu Dhabi’s public spaces and how might they indicate challenges to conceptions of publicity and privacy amidst environmental change.

Abu Dhabi’s rapid urbanization since the 1960s was shaped by oil revenue and infrastructures meant to mitigate its desert environment. This project explores the transformation of Abu Dhabi’s urban spaces in light of the Anthropocene and examines the tensions between the design of public spaces and their lived uses/accessibility. It seeks concrete information on the experiences of diverse communities: How do they define, appropriate, and use city spaces? Which environmental and social factors shape their access and why? How might this intersect with nationality, race, class, and gender? We suggest that Abu Dhabi’s arid climate intersects with its political climate in complex ways that condition the possibilities for its communal spaces and forecast transformations of the conception of publicity and privacy in the wider, warming world. To that end, we seek to re-define publicity and privacy in the context of Abu Dhabi, in part by considering hybrid formations such as the public use of private spaces (car culture, malls, and digital platforms) and intimate uses of public spaces (families gathering for a picnic in a park). While our methods are primarily ethnographic, the project embraces multiple disciplines and modes of practice—creative writing, photography, film, drawing, mapping, soundscapes, etc.—as it experiments with ways to collect and share these experiences both publicly and privately.

Funded by the NYUAD Arts and Humanities Division’s “Anthropocene: Urbanism, the Environment, and Sustainability” Research Kitchen

Work produced includes:

Website and Blog: https://sites.nyuad.nyu.edu/researchkitchens/aues/participation-in-abu-dhabis-public-space/

“Rhythms of Abu Dhabi” Story Maps: https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/2064d3f9abd548daafb9ff0ea99e9695

“Urban Diversions: (Un)Intended Uses of an Abu Dhabi Park” (co-authored with L. Assaf, O. Duncan, and P. Mustamaki), article under review by Sharjah Architectural Triennial for Living Continuity.

“Rhythms of Abu Dhabi.” Exhibition of urban ethnographic research. The Transformative Power of the Anthropocene, Project Space, NYUAD, 2022.

Presentations at the Performance Studies international (PSi) Conference, Johannesburg. Aug 2-5, 2023 and American Anthropological Association (AAA) Meeting, Seattle, WA. Nov 9-13, 2022.