This book began as a dissertation project at the University of California,
Irvine, for which, in 2004, I traveled to Dubai for the very first time. As a
graduate student who had never before conducted fieldwork outside of
the United States and who had never been to the Gulf region, I found
arriving in Dubai without an established network of friends, family, or
even academic contacts to be daunting, to say the least. At that time, too,
existing scholarship on the Gulf region, which has since grown almost as
fast as the cities themselves, was sparse, particularly in my areas of inter-
est. So I was in many ways landing without a parachute. I discovered quite
early on that urban ethnography can be a lonely and alienating process,
but I also encountered in Dubai incredibly supportive people, from all
walks of life, who fostered my research, were generous with their time,
invited me into their lives, and enriched me in ways that words can never
fully express. I count many of them as friends and colleagues to this day. In
addition to my interlocutors, whose stories form the core of this book and
whose amazing personalities I hope I have done justice to here, I would
like to thank Liz Faier, Nitin Gogia, Paresh Dholakia, Chitra Dholakia, N.
Janardhan, Susan Strickland, Christopher Davidson, Sulayman Khalaf,
Anar Amlani, and James Onley for their academic and personal support
while I was in Dubai. I would also like to thank the large online commu-
nity of Dubaiites with whom I regularly interacted on blogs and forums for
easing my life as a new resident of a city that I have since grown to think of
as home.
This research was funded by several generous grants from the Depart-
ment of Anthropology, the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, and the
School of Social Sciences at the University of California, Irvine. I am also
grateful to Bill Maurer for his personal support of various portions of my
fieldwork, and to the American University of Sharjah for sponsoring my
residency while I was in the United Arab Emirates. Funding from the
Texas a&m Glasscock Humanities Center allowed me to make follow-up
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