I have now spent about 24 hours in Dubai, and the majority of a working week in Sheffield, UK. Dubai is a luxurious and fascinating place. It is easy to bring one’s own judgements to bear on Dubai: it is undeniably a highly consumerist place with a sense of almost aggressive development (eg. world’s tallest building, world’s most luxurious hotel, etc.)
However, to judge Dubai negatively on this basis, I believe would be to grossly underestimate the richness of its culture and the potential of its society. For the first time, non-Western societies are experiencing rapid industrial development and wealth. How their own traditions (eg. Islam and Hinduism, as well as their local cultures in general) will influence this remains to be seen. I am excited about seeing these countries on a par with the old players.
Sheffield reminds me of Melbourne in some ways – so perhaps I am bringing too parochial a viewpoint. Around Sheffield Hallam Uni, and also at Kelham Island I noticed street press and events such as Doc/Fest, indicative of a highly intellectual, urbane and sophisticated populace. I have picked up the free street magazine, Now/Then, which seems to appeal to people interested in local music, organic food etc. Very ‘hip’.
I feel ambivalent about this, given how I tend to judge the ‘hip’ culture back in Melbourne. However, signifiers like the street press and Doc/Fest seem to encourage a sense of pride in Sheffield, and consciousness that one is in a particular, unique place – not just another, Western city.
I find this self-consciousness quite a positive aspect of Sheffield, which is unexpected. Some localities are conscious of their unique identity, but just use it in an instrumental or exploitative way, to draw tourists. I think that is unsustainable and distasteful. Sheffield however, seems to be self-conscious in a positive way - a way that encourages local pride among residents and continued, long-term creativity and productivity.
- Linda Hadley (Bachelor of Arts - English and Sociology Major)