Social Transformations in the Arab Gulf States

Identity, Tribe and Development

The ACRPS has published Social Transformations in the Arab Gulf States: Identity, Tribe and Development, exploring issues of identity and tribe and the impact of development and modernization, up to the Gulf crisis in 2017, which raised important questions about shared values and “Gulf identity.”

In this book, multiple questions intersect, requiring theoretical, conceptual and practical approaches that constitute the basis for investigating identity, tribe and development, based on the 20th century modernization processes of the political, economic and social institutions of these countries, led by the newly independent state. It examines the intersection of national identity with traditional identities, especially tribalism, which pose one of the main challenges facing efforts to build a unified Gulf identity. From here, the book aims to understand the social transformations in the Arab Gulf region and their relationship to the dynamics and development of Gulf societies, especially in recent years.

The book consists of ten chapters, spread across three sections, the first of which is four chapters and focuses on identity and tribe in the Arab Gulf States. In the first chapter, Yaqoub Al-Kandari deals with the decline of national identity in Kuwait, in contrast to the growth of sub-identities, and its impact on the stability of Kuwaiti society and the declining status of the values of belonging and citizenship, based on a field study that includes the six governorates of Kuwait. In the second chapter, Qassem Ali Shaaban studies the linguistic transformations in the Arab Gulf region, such as a reduction in the use of Modern Standard Arabic, the attachment to local dialects as a symbol of national identity, and the rise of the English language as a common language among diverse societies, recognizing the importance of preserving minority languages, and developing a simplified Gulf Arabic language. In the third chapter, Nusaybah Hegertoglu focuses on the impact of regional and international factors on building regional and national identities in the Arab Gulf states. She argues that regional and international events are one of the important dynamics in shaping identity in the Arab Gulf region, given its unique position in global energy markets and its strategic importance. In the fourth chapter, Mubarak bin Khamis al-Hamdani argues that despite Oman’s transition to a new developmental stage of governance and political structures, the tribe still represents a major social and political component of state building.

The second section of the book, focused on development and modernization in the Arab Gulf States, there comes in three chapters. Mehran Kamrava begins chapter five by questioning the social impacts of newly emerging cities in the Gulf states on their residents. He argues that although urban expansion is subject to the decision and control of local rulers, it is guided by the logic of the global market on the one hand, and by a desire to create developed urban landscapes on the other. This means transforming the Gulf cities into regional and international centers, imposing certain social transformations on the Gulf region and its residents. In the sixth chapter, Ali Abdel Raouf and Hadeel Ali explore and analyze the major transformations that have occurred in contemporary Gulf cities over the past decade. They argue that the urban expansion in the Gulf city in the last decade has imposed a contradictory package of social transformations and existential questions about the present and future of the national identity of the Gulf state. They also argue that this contradictory scene has overlapped with the limited future perceptions of the state of Gulf cities, especially in the post-oil era. In the seventh chapter, Saif bin Nasser Al-Maamari and Zainab Al-Gharibiya investigate the place of teaching national identity in social studies textbooks in Kuwait, Oman, and Saudi Arabia. They adopt a comparative approach to study the status of the Gulf identity as opposed to the national, Arab, and Islamic identities. The researchers present the theoretical foundations of the concept of national identity in the Arab Gulf region and look at how to translate this into the contents of school textbooks in order to identify the distance between national and Gulf identities.

The third section of the book is dedicated to the 2017 Gulf crisis and its ramifications for the identity and values in the region and includes three chapters. In the first, chapter 8, Muhammad Hashem al-Hashemi discusses the problem of a unified Gulf identity, and analyzes the reasons for the weakness of this project and explains them in light of the Gulf crisis. He argues that it is not possible to blame this crisis and other similar disputes for the weakening of the unified Gulf identity. Rather, this is an inevitable result of the absence of an integrated strategic vision and the necessary implementation mechanisms in the GCC institutions. In the ninth chapter, Al-Anoud Al Khalifa sheds light on the main challenges in building a unified identity in the GCC, and the factors that prompted the GCC countries to strengthen the unified Gulf identity during a certain period. Determining the factors that affected this identity during its development, and determining its future, Al Khalifa searches for answers to the following questions: What comes first, the Gulf identity or the national identity? Which identities are more important? Do the political crises and differences between the GCC states and the absence of a common foreign policy have any effects on building a common Gulf identity? In the tenth chapter, Maryam Muhammad Al-Kuwari shows the impact of using local poetry and folk songs, specifically the Shilat of Nabatean poetic heritage, during the 2017 Gulf crisis, in building national identity in the Gulf. She reveals the impact of the use of folk songs and literary arts, especially the mellow Shilat poetry, as a novel tool in reproducing identities in the Gulf during important political incidents.

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