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City and cosmology: genetics, health, and urban living in Dubai

Parkhurst, A; (2018) City and cosmology: genetics, health, and urban living in Dubai. Anthropology & Medicine , 25 (1) pp. 68-84. 10.1080/13648470.2017.1398815. Green open access

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In light of increasingly high rates of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity among citizens of the Arabian Gulf, popular health discourse in the region has emphasised the emergent Arab genome as the primary etiological basis of major health conditions. However, after many years of public dissemination of genomic knowledge in the region, and widespread acceptance of this knowledge among Gulf Arab citizens, the rates of chronic illness continue to increase. This paper briefly explores the clash between indigenous Islamic knowledge systems and biomedical knowledge systems imported into the United Arab Emirates. It presents vignettes collected from interviews and participant observation in Dubai as part of nearly four years of ethnographic research, completed as part of the author's doctoral work on ‘Anxiety and Identity in Southeast Arabia’. Rather than radically informing health seeking behaviours among many UAE citizens, the emphasis on the ‘Arab Genome’ has instead reconfirmed the authority of Bedouin cosmological understandings of disease, reshaping the language that people use to engage with their bodies and their health. Local cosmology remains a powerful discursive element that often operates in contention, in sometimes powerfully subtle ways, with novel health initiative regimes. For many people in the region, genomic information, as it is often discussed and propagated in the UAE, shares an intimate relationship with ideas of fate and national identity, and sometimes serves to mitigate the increasingly uncertain terms of engagement that people share between the body, their health, and rapidly changing urban landscapes.

Type: Article
Title: City and cosmology: genetics, health, and urban living in Dubai
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/13648470.2017.1398815
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1080/13648470.2017.1398815
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: genetics, medical anthropology, chronic illnes, fate, urban anthropology
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10051043
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