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Rana AlMutawa is an Assistant Professor of Social Research and Public Policy at New York University Abu Dhabi. She focuses on urban ethnography; social hierarchies (race, class, gender, citizenship; Orientalism; social distinction); and belonging. Rana completed her doctoral training at the University of Oxford in 2021 and published her first book, Everyday Life in the Spectacular City: Making Home in Dubai, in 2024 with the University of California Press.


Rana's book is an urban ethnography of middle-class citizens and long-term residents in Dubai. It explores discourses of authenticity that circulate about “spectacular” cities such as Dubai and the forms of belonging and agency that take place in these settings. In particular, she is interested in interrogating the way narratives of certain geographies’ “(in)authenticity” and “superficiality” are often linked to performances of social distinction; in the forms of belonging taking place in “spectacular” spaces that are often dismissed as alienating; and in the intersectional forms of exclusion happening in these settings.

Prior to being at Oxford, Rana worked as an instructor and researcher at Zayed University in Dubai for three years. As an Emirati woman, she was interested in and wrote about questions on state feminism, national identity and ethnic diversity among Emiratis. She has published her work in Arab Studies Journal (2020); Hawwa (2020); Urban Anthropology (2019); New Middle Eastern Studies (2016) as well as in other public platforms such as the LSE Middle East Studies Blog where she wrote about navigating multiple lived experiences in the Gulf; social distinction, and perceptions of authenticity.

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