So Close, So Far. National Identity and Political Legitimacy in UAE-Oman Border Cities
Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
© 2017 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
Reason for embargo
Since the accession of Oman and the United Arab Emirates to the independence in the early 1970s, the building of both a state apparatus and a nation has lain at the heart of the political projects of respective rulers of these countries to assert their legitimacy and control over their respective territory. This issue of the mutual relationship has been particularly crucial, given the two countries’ shared modern history, and the tribal and ethnic proximity between inhabitants living across the new international boundary. The study of the two border towns of al-Ayn (United Arab Emirates) and al-Buraymi (Oman) provides a unique window onto unfolding patterns of the construction of political sovereignty in post-colonial states and the link between the building of national identity and the physical demarcation from the (br)other. These two towns existed as a single oasis prior to the 1970s. However, the act of drawing an international demarcation across the oasis has led to the sprouting of new dynamics resulting from the increasing difference of social and economic development. This article argues that the adversarial political and economic trajectories of al-Ayn and al-Buraymi have been epitomising the evolution of the relationship between the two countries. While the UAE authorities have been pushing for a stricter regulation of the flow of migrants, it has been in the interest of Oman to keep fluidity in order to alleviate the social and economic challenges on its side of the border. This disparity of interests has impacted bilateral political relationships, as the Omani authorities have had to face the question of the strong extraversion of northern Oman towards the UAE globalised cities and the possibility that these areas could escape Muscat’s allegiance. Growing suspicions and mistrust in both capitals have been accompanied by renewed questioning related to respective national identities, especially when dealing with the relation to the ‘brother.’
This research was supported by the UK Economic and Social Research Council [grant number ES/J012696/1].
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Taylor & Francis via the DOI in this record.
Published online 26 December 2017