Oct 22 2015
GUEST: Andrew Ross, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University, a contributor to the Nation, the Guardian, New York Times, Al Jazeera, and Artforum. His books include Creditocracy and the Case for Debt Refusal.
The Syria refugee crisis captured the world’s attention this year. But there are migrant crises all over the world, some are fast floods, others are slow-moving. Aside from the migration issue at our own border, is an issue that plagues the US’s closest allies in the Middle East. The United Arab Emirates and other Persian Gulf states, have literally built their vast economic empires on the backs of migrant laborers.
Millions of low-wage workers from South Asian, and increasingly African countries, toil under the relentless sun, building luxury villas, hotels, and malls, and, more recently, art museums and universities.
Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, some years ago launched an ambitious project on a stretch of sand called Saadiyat Island, which translates into Island of Happiness. The project involves the commissioning of structures by such famed archietects as Frank Gehry, and museum branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim, as well as a campus of New York University. All of the work to build these ambitious cultural projects would of course be done by migrant workers who are little more than indentured laborers. But the artists involved in the project decided that this was the right moment to draw attention to the contradictions of cultural freedom and worker abuse.
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