What happens when a large alcohol industry finds footing in a nation where it is prohibited? Or when bikini-clad women flood the beaches of a country where women traditionally wear clothing that covers most of their bodies?
Senior Jocelin Hody, a government major with a concentration in international relations, is exploring these questions through her honors project. Specifically, she is examining how Islamic culture in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is responding to globalization.
"Its basically the newest hotspot," Hody says of Dubai. She describes some of the projects currently underway in Dubai?a ski slope in the desert, an underwater hotel, and two artificial palm shaped islands with hotels, homes, and casinos. According to Hody, more than $100 billion has been invested in these and other projects.
But globalization has changed more than just Dubai's physical landscape; it has penetrated into the emirate's culture. Specifically, she is examining how "sin industries," such as prostitution, gambling, and alcohol, mix with the nation's Islamic culture. Hody wonders if traditional Islamic values will be diminished by globalization, or if the two will be able to coexist.
Hody says her project adviser, Associate Professor of Government and Asian Studies Henry Laurence, pointed out that her project approaches the issue of globalization in a unique way. While theories about globalization are usually studied in the context of different countries, Hody's project tests theories of globalization using Dubai as the case study.
"It's been an innovative way to apply theories that I have learned," she says.
Conducting research can be difficult. Hody says because she chose "such a contemporary topic," it can be challenging to find information. Mostly, she has consulted online works and journal articles. Hody has also contacted people who have done business in Dubai.
After Hody began researching globalization in Dubai, she discovered an interesting discrepancy between certain aspects of Dubai's constitution and its cultural context. For instance, the constitution for the United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is the second largest emerate, allows for development and economic growth. However, Hody says these allowances seem to be at odds with Sharia (Islamic) law, on which the constitution is founded.
For instance, collecting interest is against Sharia law, yet an increasing number of banks are opening in Dubai. According to Hody, promoting tourism is currently the "No. 1 goal of Dubai." However, she says the tourism industry and foreign investors foster the development of "sin industries."
Hody wonders if the clash between Islamic values and industrialization is a result of an unclear constitution. She says she is not the only one who thinks there may be a link between the ambiguous constitution and the cultural tension in Dubai, but she notes that this relationship is "totally up for interpretation."
"After this project I would love to go and see everything first hand," Hody says.