This paper illustrates how Gulf nationals' claims to their homelands are affirmed and enacted through the ostensibly banal, but highly political, effort to construct falconry as a 'heritage sport'. Taking the case of the United Arab Emirates, I argue that local elites have harnessed the global discourse of 'heritage' to construct an ethnicized and gendered vision of a primordial Arab homeland. Heritage discourses surrounding falconry play an important role in legitimating prevailing structural inequalities in Gulf societies, reaffirming the minority citizen-nationals' claims to 'ownership' of the state, as well as naturalizing the masculinist imaginings of desert landscapes. Also considering the transnational dimensions of a geopolitics of falconry, I show how these nationalist narratives relate to cross-regional networks between the Arabian Peninsula and Central Asia. I argue that Gulf Arab falconry practices are not essentially 'primordial', but are made possible by and reinforce political economic inequalities institutionalized by contemporary territorial regimes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science