Identit(ies) and Heritage in the UAE: Examining the Roles of Kinship, Family and the State

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 16:42
Oral Presentation
Courtney FREER, London School of Economics, United Kingdom
Rima SABBAN, Zayed University, United Arab Emirates
Since their independence, governments of states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have devoted considerable resources to the preservation of heritage and perpetuation of national identity. We take the case of the UAE as a prime example of state promotion of heritage and identity. Nowhere have efforts to provide a ruling myth and national culture been more broad-based and ambitious than in the UAE, which has worked determinedly to promote a sense of shared identity and values among its citizenry. This is no coincidence. Indeed, the union of the seven emirates forming the UAE was famously contested, with Ras al-Khaimah, agreeing to the union months after its creation and with national armed forced fully unified only in 1996. Benefitting from substantial hydrocarbon wealth, the Emirati government is able to devote considerable funds to a variety of heritage projects, which foster shared identity in a state where citizens compose less than 15 percent of the total population. Many of these efforts emphasise a shared tribal past unique to the Emirati population. The UAE houses an impressive variety of government-linked bodies with authority over heritage preservation.

This paper in particular will focus on the role of the state in advancing messages about national identity and values, particularly how these have shifted since Emirati independence as different political ideologies have come to influence the region. Because both scholars have conducted previous research on identity, society, and politics of the UAE from different disciplinary backgrounds (Dr. Sabban is a sociologist; Dr. Freer is a political scientist), this paper will include an extensive literature review to aid further, multidisciplinary discussion of the topic of state promotion of heritage and shared identity, in addition to providing an extensive review of past Emirati policies on identity formation and heritage.