Nationalism and Tolerance Discourse in the United Arab Emirates Balancing Exclusive Belonging and Inclusive Non-Belonging
Date: 25 September 2023
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
PhD in Arab and Islamic Studies
This thesis examines the manner in which nation-building processes have been defined, enacted, and received in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Beginning from the period before 1971, when the Emirati nation-state came into being, the exposition unravels the colonial origins of forms of citizenship, nationhood, race, and belonging across ...
This thesis examines the manner in which nation-building processes have been defined, enacted, and received in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Beginning from the period before 1971, when the Emirati nation-state came into being, the exposition unravels the colonial origins of forms of citizenship, nationhood, race, and belonging across the colonial divide, as well as the emanations of the forms of coloniality from the post-colonial period. The thesis thus contributes to the emerging scholarship on the processes of identity formation in the Arabian Gulf. It builds on descriptions of the particularities of Khaleeji nation-building and its influence from studies rather than treating the region as a locale in which late forms of nationalism emerged. In particular, the thesis explores how a combination of the federal structure of the state and the ‘demographic imbalance’ of the population pushed the UAE towards an iterative model of nation-building in which internal unification (or ‘unity through diversity’) evolved into a cosmopolitan inclusion in which notions of tolerance, multiculturalism, and diversity were deployed so as to generate shared allegiances. Importantly, the thesis does not argue that inclusivity or multiculturalism tally neatly with either the true desires of the state or the lived experience of non-nationals, for egalitarianism is prized primarily for its discursive force. In the substantive chapters of the thesis, I provide a detailed examination of several case studies on how nationhood, heritage, and history are articulated through a series of symbolic repertoires. Owing to the uniquely difficult circumstances of the period through which this project was undertaken (the Qatar Crisis, the global pandemic, and the Hedges case), I gathered qualitative research materials in a catholic fashion through semi-structured interviews (mainly in the UAE, but also in Oman and Qatar for comparative purposes), participant observation (in museums, at celebrations, and across heritage sites), media analyses (of both print and online publications, including Emirati and international platforms), and observations of social media (Twitter tags, YouTube channels, and podcasts).
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