Panels 2013

MESA 2013 (New Orleans, LA)

1a) Anthropology of the Gulf Arab States I: New Ethnographic Approaches to Power [P3275]
Friday, 10/11/13 11:00am Co-sponsored with AMEA

Noora Lori (Harvard University) and Neha Vora (Lafayette College), Chairs

This panel explores the interplay between anthropological approaches to power and the daily, lived experiences of differently situated Gulf residents. Most studies on power in the Gulf have until now focused on either the resilience of authoritarianism in the region or the structural violence of its guest-worker (kafala) system. As such, the treatment of power as a unidirectional instrument of state/society and citizen/non-citizen dichotomies has been pervasive. This panel builds upon contemporary scholarship in anthropology and related disciplines, which has increasingly approached power as circulating, diffuse, and productive of subjects rather than as something that is held and wielded by certain individuals and institutions against others. Based on rich ethnographic fieldwork, the papers explore the daily on-the-ground operations of power in multiple, overlapping modalities, including sovereign, disciplinary, scientific, and affective. The papers each address different yet interconnected topics--migration and gendered labor in Kuwait; urban planning and consumerism in Dubai; knowledge economy, migration, and expertise in Qatar; and community policing in the United Arab Emirates. By placing these seemingly divergent topics together under the theme of "power," the panel not only asks how new conceptualizations of power can invigorate scholarship on the Gulf, but also how the Gulf as ethnographic field site can push back against anthropology's and political theory's own parochialisms, which overwhelmingly utilize concepts that come of out Western histories of conquest, capital, and politics in order to understand the history and politics of the Gulf region.

Household Contestations: Religious Conversions, Domestic Workers and Political Discourses in Kuwait by Ahmad, Attiya (George Washington University)

"Imperial" Dubai: A Lefebvrian Reading by Kanna, Ahmed (University of the Pacific)

“‘Civilizing’ Security: Active Policing and Contestations over the Enforcement of UAE Decency Laws” by Lori, Noora (Harvard University)

Knowledge economies as ‘expert camps’: toward a new ethnography of labor migration in the Gulf by Vora, Neha (Lafayette College)

1b) Anthropology of the Gulf Arab States II: Ethnography and the Study of Gulf Migration [P3442]
Friday, 10/11/13 2:00pm Co-sponsored with AMEA

Andrew Gardner (University of Puget Sound) and Pardis Mahdavi (Pomona College), Chairs
Sharon Nagy (Clemson University), Discussant

In recent decades, migration to the Gulf Cooperation Council has emerged as an important facet in the prism by which the contemporary Middle East is understood and represented. Migration to Arabia has not only been of interest to scholars, but also to policymakers, demographers, artists, and to the conversations internal to the citizenries of these GCC states. With foreigners comprising as much as 85% (Dubai) and 94% (Doha) of the total population in some of these emirates and states, the migration system that coalesces in the GCC states is not only an important social fact in this part of the Middle East, but it also marks this region as analytically significant and, perhaps, unique. Since the inception of scholarly interest in this migration flow, anthropologists have been instrumental in understanding the contours of this flow of migrants and the societies that receive them. The ethnographic toolkit has been particularly adept at unpacking and exploring the complexities and sensitivities that characterize migration in the region. Anthropology, for example, has deeply explored the informalization of the labor force, the structural violence produced by this migration system, the unequal composition of labor laws, the vitality of a class-based analytic framework, the gendered aspect of migration to the region, and the intersectionality of race, class, and gender in these ever changing host countries. In this panel, presenters build upon that anthropological legacy, explore its frontiers, and consider the possibilities for the application of these findings. These papers draw on the application of firsthand ethnographic data as a tool for exploring the frontiers of our collective understanding of migration, its complexities, and its articulation and impact on state and society in the GCC.

Beyond the ivory tower: reflections on the practical impact of ethnographic research about migration in the Gulf by Frantz, Elizabeth (Open Society Foundation)

Labor Migration in Contemporary Qatar: New Data by Gardner, Andrew (University of Puget Sound)

Imagining ‘Saudi’: Filipino Muslim Migrants’ Stories in and about the Kingdom by Johnson, Mark (University of Hull)

Ethnographies of Power and Privilege: Examining Racialized Morality and Developmentalist Approaches to Gulf Migration through Lived Experience by Mahdavi, Pardis (Pomona College)

Labour Immigration, Brokerage, and Governance in the State of Qatar by Osella, Filippo (University of Sussex)

2) The Gulf States and the Arab Spring: Policy Responses and Consequences [P3296]
Saturday, 10/12/13 11:00am

Kristian Coates Ulrichsen (Baker Institute), Chair
Kristin Smith Diwan (American University, SIS), Discussant

This panel combines theoretical and empirical analysis of the impact of the Arab Spring uprisings on the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states. Since early-2011, a sustained uprising in Bahrain, large-scale protests in Kuwait and the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, unprecedented criticism of the Sultan's performance in Oman, and smaller-scale demands for reform in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar have pushed against the boundaries of permissible opposition in the Gulf States. Powerful 'red lines' and social taboos have been crossed as determined youth-led movements unwilling to respect the traditional 'rules of the game' have emerged. Such new opposition forces are impacting the parameters of protest that were constructed as part of the processes of political decompression in the Gulf monarchies.

A key objective of the panel is to examine the implications of Gulf States' policy responses to the Arab Spring upheaval for the 'ruling bargain' that underpins governing models in the GCC. This will be achieved by combining analysis of region-wide trends, such as the intensification of the politics of patronage in an attempt to pre-empt or mitigate socio-economic grievances, and the rise in sectarian-led attempts to externalize the roots of dissent, with specific case-studies focusing on regime reactions to unrest in Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. Panellists will integrate empirical examples into theoretical perspectives to develop and deepen an understanding of the forces of change that are powerfully reshaping the political economy of the Gulf States.

Specific issues to be addressed by the panel include: the impasse between entrenched ruling families and energized oppositions concerning the locus and distribution of power; the challenge of absorbing new popular forces into fragmented political landscapes; the impact of expansionary public-spending policies on fiscal sustainability and prospects for meaningful economic diversification; tensions in the balance between regimes' efforts to portray an international image of engagement reform, including in the security sector, and the continuation of authoritarian rule and domestic repression; whether and how regime legitimacy and social cohesion can realistically be stitched together again after the polarization of positions on all sides; and the prospects that pathways for further development will be marked by coercion, consent, or attempts to 'muddle through' by putting off difficult and sensitive reforms until they become unavoidable.

The UAE and the Arab Spring: Opposition Emerges by Davidson, Christopher (Durham University)

Sectarian Gulf: How the Gulf Monarchies Responded to the Arab Uprisings by Matthiesen, Toby (LSE and Cambridge)

The Conundrum of Security Sector Reform in Bahrain by Stork, Joe (Human Rights Watch)

The Qaboos-State and the ‘Omani Spring’. Costs and benefits of the extreme personalization of power in times of crisis by Valeri, Marc (University of Exeter)

3) Islam and Moral Economy and Empire in the West Indian Ocean [P3405]
Friday, 10/11/13 8:30am

Elke Stockreiter (University of Iowa), Chair

Between the mid-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, the Western Indian Ocean underwent a dramatic transformation. During this period, the twin forces of high imperialism and emerging modern capitalism indelibly reshaped economic and social life in the region; they generated moral and political tensions, but also offered previously unimaginable opportunities. Drawing on case studies from around the coasts and hinterlands of the Persian Gulf, South Arabia and East Africa, the papers on this panel explore the emergence and articulation of a regional moral economy. They highlight how the confluence of empire, capital and Islam generated discursive creativity and facilitated the mobility of ideas across oceans and between communities.

The first paper explores Omani jurists' changing ideas surrounding debt, economic obligation and Muslim legal personhood in the nineteenth century, a time in which Arab merchants and planters, African slaves, and Indian financiers were commercializing the East African coast. The second explores the moral economy of slave ownership and manumission in the Gulf and South Arabia, highlighting how intervention by the colonial state into the manumission process disrupted prior understandings of patrons, clients, belonging and non-belonging in the region. The third examines how employment by the colonial state provided avenues but also limited options for Arabs, African and British officers in East Africa to redefine economic and social mobility. The final paper details a struggle between Muslim reformers and practitioners of spirit possession over acceptable practices within the Muslim moral community in British Aden.

Collectively, the papers on this panel mobilize the concept of moral economy to call attention to the agency of a wide range of historical actors on the regional stage. They highlight a multitude of voices engaging in vibrant discussions on changing notions of propriety, mutuality and exemplarity during a time of immense social and economic upheaval. They explore how men and women adapted to and utilized changes in social, political, and religious structures in the age of empire, and how different actors navigated an inter-regional moral economy in pursuit of socio-economic mobility.

The Most Enduring Obligation: Debt, Personhood and Commerce in the Western Indian Ocean by Bishara, Fahad A. (College of William and Mary / Harvard University)

Liberating Slavery: Moral Economies of Servitude and Manumission in the Gulf and Indian Ocean by McDow, Thomas F. (Ohio State University)

Media, Marginality and the Moral Community in Twentieth-century Colonial Aden: Why Zar Failed where Tamburra Succeeded by Reese, Scott S. (Northern Arizona University)

Moral Obligations and Pecuniary Embarrassment in the Zanzibar Protectorate by Stockreiter, Elke (University of Iowa)