Hot seat: James Piecowye

As host of Dubai Eye’s Nightline, James Piecowye gives a voice to Dubai’s diverse citizens. <em>Time Out</em> decided it was time to find out what he’s learned in the process.

Hot seat, The Knowledge

How long have you been in Dubai and what is your day job?
I am into my ninth year of living in Dubai. During the day I am Dr. James Piecowye, an associate professor of communication and media sciences at Zayed University’s Dubai campus. I teach students how to tell a good story.

A lot of people think that, in multi-cultural terms, Dubai is a salad bowl rather than a melting pot. What’s your take on that?
I would tend to agree. Dubai might be best understood as a Caesar Salad with the creamy sauce being where we all interact on the fringes of our own socio-cultural islands! I think Nightline demonstrates that while the man from Canada, woman from Ethiopia and child from Iceland are all different, there are these overarching similarities we all share and when we hear each other and actually listen, as we do four nights a week, we realise that we really aren’t all that much different.

Dubai is a transient place for many people. Nevertheless do you think a distinct society is emerging?
Yes, I do I think that people are sticking around longer in Dubai and this is becoming home. As we begin to call Dubai home, it is inevitable that structures, institutions and mindsets develop that lend themselves to creating a unique Dubai society.

Aside from traffic and rent prices, what are the main themes that crop up time and time again on your show?
If I was to distil the conversations on Nightline down to a single theme it would have to be the desire for inclusion. People in the UAE, be they Emiratis or expats, all want one thing – to know what is happening around them, and to be asked for some input on how services such as roads, hospitals, parks or even radio broadcasts, can be better delivered. Because they are the users of those services.

Are there cultural fl ash points that repeatedly crop up?
Surprisingly not really. Whether I am talking to expats or Emiratis about terrorism or local business practices, the issues raised are remarkably similar. You deal with Dubai’s youth.

What do you make of them?
I am convinced that we, like the generations before us, are failing to realise that our youth have a lot to offer if we give them the opportunity to put their off-the-wall ideas into practice.

What are their main concerns growing up here?
I have never met or spoken to any youth who have a concern about growing up in Dubai. It seems that it’s the parents who have the issues.

What do you love and what frustrates you about Dubai?
The thing I love is the variety of people we are able to socialise with. The most frustrating thing about Dubai is how from one day to the next, things that are easy to fi nd in a grocery store become non-existent.

What’s the single biggest change that could really help Dubai in the next few years?
Creating town hall meetings in the various sections of Dubai where residents can help give practical ideas for development to offi cials and also have an opportunity to hear from the decision makers why things are changing as they are.

James Piecowye, PhD, MB, hosts Nightline on Dubaieye 103.8, weekdays from 8pm-10pm.

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