Is nationalism just for nationals? The scholarly consensus seems to be yes, but two small monarchies on the Arabian Peninsula suggest the need to reconsider this assumption. In Qatar, citizens account for about 12 percent of the country's 2 million inhabitants. Of the UAE's 8.2 million residents, 13 percent are citizens. Citizen-nationals enjoy significant legal privilege in these states, preserved by their jus sanguinis citizenship regimes, which preclude noncitizens and their children from naturalizing. Although they are frequently dismissed as “ethnocracies,” Gulf states are not exclusively dominated by ethnic nationalism. Rather, as this study of “National Day” holidays in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) illustrates, an incipient form of civic nationalism is increasingly being used to narrate state-based belonging on the part of noncitizen “expats.” Through textual analysis of celebration discourses in the lead-up to the 2013 and 2014 holidays in the UAE and Qatar, supplemented by participant observation, I analyze the political geographical imaginaries at work in these ostensibly inclusivist narratives. Extending the citizenship studies literature on noncitizen inclusion, this case study shows how the Gulf countries challenge traditional assumptions about nationalism being the exclusive domain of citizens, and points to the need for more research about how noncitizens elsewhere in the world participate in nationalist rituals and to what end.
- Arabian Peninsula
- Civic nationalism
- Ethnic nationalism
- United Arab Emirates
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Sociology and Political Science