Accepted Paper:

On the outskirts of Dubai: Bedouin villagers in a rapidly changing world  


Anne Kathrine Larsen (Norwegian University of Science and Technology)

Paper short abstract:

This paper addresses the methodological challenges anthropologists face when trying to understand people’s conduct in relation to a contingent future. The focus is on Dubai nationals of Bedouin background and how multi-temporal fieldwork may reveal the interplay between people’s outlook and choices.

Paper long abstract:

While The UAE has not experienced the violent clashes present other places in the Middle East, the country is still affected by the impact of global forces rapidly transforming the society. This has among others resulted in a huge immigrant population as well as an increasing number of tourists. The indigenous population faces great challenges when preparing themselves for the future, which is hard to predict due to economic fluctuations and the great social and cultural transformation of their country. While anthropology has a long history of studying underdog groups in society, this paper will focus on the elite minority population of Dubai, and more specifically on the Bedouin population living in a desert village outside Dubai City. In order to understand people's ideas of well-being, it is necessary to map their views of the future and their role and position in the development of the country. This creates certain challenges for an anthropological study. In order to see how the villagers interpret and react to the changes taking place in their environment, fieldwork has been conducted off and on for a period of 14 years. This enables the anthropologist to follow people over time, to listen to their aspirations and options when planning for the future, and to see which choices are actually being made. The paper will especially focus on younger women, and their attempt to create a personal career by balancing and challenging the different demands on them as modern women in a rapidly changing environment.

Panel P076
The Future of the Anthropology and Anthropologists of the Contemporary Middle East and Central Eurasia (The Anthropology of the Middle East and Central Eurasia Network)