ME/NA/SA FUTURISMS MENASA FUTURISMS :: 1 - Page 27

Gulf Futurism (a term coined by Sophia Al Maria) is a cultural and urban phenomenon marked by an absurd obsession with hypermodernism, consumerism and technological acceleration that is removed from social consequences. Modernization is the process of transition from a ‘traditional’ to a ‘modern’ society; modernity, however, is often dictated by or measured against Western standards. Gulf Futurism inspires visions of architectural transcendence and technological advancements that overcome all forms of human limitations. The seduction of Gulf Futurism comes from its conception of the region’s future in purely aesthetic terms. In this way, the conditions enabling this progress are rendered completely irrelevant and invisible. This tends to be the case with most of our relationships to structures of the future. It is easier to think of your phone as a means to access information, rather than a product of slave labor; a symbol of mankind’s technological progress and future-oriented aesthetics, and not as a manifestation of corporate exploitation. Larger futuristic projects in the gulf, steel and glass monoliths in the desert, are erected in the name of modernization: the region’s transition into an eternity of wealth and unlimited progress. The ever-changing desert landscape begs the question: how true do the projects of Gulf Futurism keep to the ideals of modernization? It is important to realize that a particular country is not considered modern based solely on GDP or infrastructural development. Modernization is a complex balance of self-sustaining economic growth 1 , public participation in policy 2 , social consciousness and equality. 3 It has been characterized as the process of social change whereby less developed nations, for better or worse, adopt the economic structures of more developed nations. 4 Unfortunately thus far, the capitalist modernizing project as we know it has historically been devastatingly costly. Contemporary historians have debated whether or not the Atlantic slave trade fueled the Industrial Revolution and the beginnings of capitalism, which allowed for rapid economic transformation in Europe. Eric Williams is one such scholar. In his 1944 book, Capitalism and Slavery, he challenged traditional ideas of economic progress by explaining how central the transatlantic slave trade had been to the primitive accumulation of capital which enabled European development. 5