Professor Engseng Ho discusses the ways in which Dubai and Singapore are emblematic of the contemporary global moment, from their dizzying economic success and frenetic excesses to their spectacular crashes. Are they global cities or port-states? Are they Asian nations or corporations descended from the English EIC and Dutch VOC? Professor Ho argues that their iconic status today as global cities is not simply a function of globalization, but can be understood in terms of dynamic currents that shape and reshape places in the Indian Ocean, the original Asian venue of an international economy. Dubai and Singapore are two tiny places that have been successful because they have understood those currents, and acted in accordance with changes in their dynamics. What are these dynamics – their constants over the long term, and their recent shifts?
Engseng Ho is Professor of Anthropology and Professor of History at Duke University, as well as Muhammad Alagil Distinguished Visiting Professor, Asia Research Inst., National Univ. of Singapore. He is currently interested in the international and transcultural dimensions of Islamic society across the Indian Ocean, and its relations to western empires. Ho has conducted research in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, India, and Southeast Asia. His book The Graves of Tarim: Genealogy and Mobility across the Indian Ocean, is published by the University of California Press.