Capitalized Urbanization

By Deen Sharp
Submitted to Session P5589 (The Corporation, 2019 Annual Meeting
All Middle East;
Urban Studies;
LCD Projector without Audio;
The corporation has deep historical roots in the Middle East but its contemporary expansion I argue in this presentation has been unprecedented. Joint-stock corporations are now integral to the organization of contemporary urban space and social life throughout the Middle East but they have largely escaped sustained critical scholarly attention. In this presentation, I detail this remarkable contemporary expansion of the joint-stock corporation and its insertion into the processes of urbanization. Today, if you look at the skyline of downtowns throughout the region, in particular in the Gulf, cities like Dubai and Doha, but also in Cairo and Casablanca, the joint-stock corporation has transformed the urban landscape. The corporation makes itself present by the proliferation of its urban mega-projects, including skyscrapers, downtown developments and gated communities; retail malls and artificial islands; airports and ports; and highways. I provide an in-depth analysis of the vast increase in the capitalization of the built environment and the associated expansion of the stock markets across the region. I outline my concept of capitalized urbanization that utilizes insights from both old institutional economics and Science and Technology Studies. I argue that through capitalized urbanization corporations build certain futures into the present of the cities of the Middle East foreclosing other possible more progressive forms of social organization. Through this framework, I give a detailed account of the constitution, operations and expansion of three of the most notable real estate joint-stock corporations in the region, Solidere in Lebanon, Emaar from the UAE and the Jabal Omar Development Company in Saudi Arabia. I detail how they have built a certain future, benefitting particular social groups at the expense of others, into the urban present both within the respective state they are registered in and the region more broadly.