Thursday, September 04, 2008

An appreciation for an alternative political model is banned

Addendum: Not banned?

There's no better way to get people interested in reading a book than for the government to ban it.
Christopher Davidson, author of Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success, said the ban was an own goal by a country that is at pains to present itself as an open society with aspirations for its higher education sector.

Dr Davidson, a lecturer at Durham University's School of Government and International Affairs, has previously worked in the UAE at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi. He has also acted as a consultant to the Dubai Government.

His book details the emirate's economic success and the problems it faces as oil reserves dwindle and its need for foreign investment pushes it towards socioeconomic reforms that could clash with the ideological, religious and cultural legitimacy of its monarchy.

It also analyses Dubai's awkward relationship with its federal partners in the UAE and its attractiveness as a free port to international criminal gangs and terrorists.

Dr Davidson said: "This is an academic book published by Columbia University Press, so it went through a rigorous peer-review process.

"Crucially, it is independent research, written by someone whose salary is not paid in the UAE, so there's none of the self-censorship that often prevents people who live there discussing anything beyond the bland and banal about the ruling families."
Dr Davidson said: "It makes it difficult for foreign academics to come to a country and try to do research when there is freedom on anything except the domestic matters of the country and the government. It's a mentality that is self-defeating for these countries, which are trying to become knowledge economies."
Dr Davidson added: "Ironically, the book is neither a neoconservative essay on the need for Western democratic implants, nor is it particularly supportive of the current format of domestic opposition - although it does highlight their existence, which is something of a first. If anything, the overall flavour of the study is one of appreciation for an alternative political model rooted in history, culture and the principles of consultation."
This is a book I'll be ordering online and reading.

Thanks to samuraisam for the pointer to this story; you can read UAE community blog reaction to the book ban here.

Addendum: The intrepid nzm has located a solid review of the book.

More: Davidson was quoted (and the book mentioned) by The National on August 16 of this year in a story concerning fraud allegations at Nakheel:
But the challenge to the efforts underway [by Dubai authorities to root out corruption] will be in the follow-through. Though Mr Shahin’s arrest was disclosed in April, a trial has yet to begin. Authorities have given little information about their investigation into the corporate world. Christopher Davidson, a professor at Britain’s Durham University and author of Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success, said that “the weakness with this is it is a mystery how the authorities are operating”.

“Are there informants? The story never really comes out,” said Prof Davidson.
Cause and effect?

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Blogger Brn said...

I just noticed that my university library has this one in stock - I would never have heard of it before. Now I'm headed there to get it!

11:41 PM  
Blogger nzm said...

I had bookmarked that review when it showed up in my Google Alerts some time ago. I meant to blog about it at the time, but got too busy.

Sam's post provided me with the op to link to it.

I wonder if Davidson will ever be allowed into the UAE again?

2:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So what will happen to me if I order the book through Amazon to my Dubai address.

The customs guys have nothing to do but ban my book from being delivered to me! or will they arrest me for attempting to own and read such a book!

10:14 AM  

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