Dubai’s Forerunner: The 1950s and 1960s ”Boom Time in Kuwait” Analyzed through the Lens of Visual Culture

Hindelang, Laura Katharina (5 July 2018). Dubai’s Forerunner: The 1950s and 1960s ”Boom Time in Kuwait” Analyzed through the Lens of Visual Culture (Unpublished). In: 14th Colloquium of the Ernst Herzfeld Society for Studies in Islamic Art and Archaeology. University of Strasbourg. 05. - 07.07.2018.

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The influential role of Dubai as a model of urban transformation and of city image construction has been extensively and critically debated in recent scholarship. Historical parallels within the region to similar processes of rapid and spectacular urban development promoted through widely transmitted images are still seldomly drawn. This is insofar problematic as it perpetuates the misleading popular perception of the Arabian Gulf as an ahistorical region built on sand. Instead I argue that Kuwait was the first of the small Arab Gulf countries to undergo such a massive transformation in very short time upon the establishment of its petroleum industry in the mid-1940s and fueled by subsequently incoming oil revenues. Kuwait, historically focused on sea-faring, trading, and pearling, was not well-known beyond the region. However, the sweeping transfiguration of the built environment, especially of the town of Kuwait, attracted business men, travelers, journalists, and photographers to report about Kuwait in both Arab and Western media. Furthermore, the Kuwaiti government promoted the country in multilingual photo books and other visual media. Kuwait’s image production climaxed when national independence was declared in 1961, triggering the establishment of the national postal service, the national currency, and new state insignia amongst other aspects. Especially postal stamps and banknotes offered new, highly mobile forms of national image display. Just like Dubai today, Kuwait then chose to represent itself by its latest architecture and technological achievements. For this paper, I examined the image production promulgating the urban transformation of Kuwait City since the 1950s, drawing on material ephemera and visual media rarely included in art historical research like stamps and banknotes. I reflected on the 20th century history of the Arabian Peninsula to critically position it within the history of material cultures and visual arts of Islamic Lands and in order to historicize contemporary phenomena occurring in the Gulf.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

Division/Institute:

06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Art History > History of Architecture and Historic Monuments
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Art History

UniBE Contributor:

Hindelang, Laura Katharina

Subjects:

700 Arts
700 Arts > 710 Landscaping & area planning
700 Arts > 720 Architecture
700 Arts > 760 Graphic arts
700 Arts > 770 Photography & computer art

Language:

English

Submitter:

Laura Katharina Hindelang

Date Deposited:

28 May 2020 13:05

Last Modified:

28 May 2020 13:05

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/143301

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