Edited by Özlem Sandıkcı and Gillian Rice
Chapter 22: Cultural Diplomacy and the United Arab Emirates: The Emergence of a Sovereign Wealth Fund Nation on the International Art World Stage
Rula Al-Abdulrazak and Derrick Chong INTRODUCTION Writing in Foreign Affairs, Peter van Ham (2001) discusses the ‘rise of the brand state’ as indicative of the current climate of international relations marked by ‘the postmodern politics of image and reputation’. French philosopher Nicolas Bourriaud (2009) uses the term altermodern as the title for the exhibition he curated for the Tate Triennial 2009: ‘A new modernity is emerging, reconfigured to an age of globalisation – understood in its economic, political and cultural aspects: an altermodern culture’ (emphasis in the original). In some respects one detects the influences of both Edward Soja (1989) and Fredric Jameson. Jameson (1990) articulated a reading of postmodernism as the cultural representation of multinational or finance capital. This (cultural) logic of late capitalism – with reference to Ernest Mandel’s third phase of capitalism – views postmodernity as a world of mesmerizing surfaces, seductively addictive, but depthless. As a pioneering human geographer, Soja (1989) sought to reassert the significance of space – not least of all cultural spaces in flux – in critical social theory. One might cite so-called sovereign wealth fund (SWF) countries1 – representing globalized and totalizing spaces of the new world system – as an example of Bourriaud’s altermodernity that is consistent with Jameson’s view of multinational capital and Soja’s examination of why and how societies use space for social purposes. Viewed as a new form of competitive capitalism certain countries are prominent for SWFs, namely the Gulf States (such as the Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates), China and...
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