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Supervisor: Prof Minna Sunikka-Blank


Research overview:

This research focuses on the relationship between native Emirati women and the landscape in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It studies their responses to urban parks and recreation projects in the desert hinterland in today’s context. The majority of literature published in the past two decades on women’s responses to change in the urban landscape in the UAE has been centered on the ways they adapted to the swift urbanization while navigating cultural norms and modern lives. These studies have been informed to a large extent by the prevalent narrative of the rapid urban and social transformations from a barren desert and tribal life into oil-wealthy modern society. The dualisms embedded in these narratives have romanticized both indigenous identity and the landscape. As a response, this research employs a postcolonial ecofeminist lens to challenge uneven hierarchical dualisms which have prevailed in the narratives of women’s lived experiences in relation to the social and urban transformations. Using participatory film as a method of investigation, this research aims to understand women’s perceptions of the landscape in today’s context, the effect of landscape change and management over time on women, and how their responses to different landscape typologies can reveal the diversity among women.



Fatma is an architect, urban designer, and researcher. Her interest lies at the intersection of rapid urbanization, desert landscapes, gender, and postcolonial studies.Fatma holds a Master in Design studies with a concentration in urbanism, landscape and ecology from Harvard University, a Master in Architecture and Urban Design from Columbia University, and a BArch from the American University of Sharjah. She practiced in New York City and Dubai on multi-scalar design projects. Fatma’s PhD research is funded by UAE Scholarships Office.