Tribal Modern: Branding New Nations in the Arab Gulf

Tribal Modern: Branding New Nations in the Arab Gulf

Tribal Modern: Branding New Nations in the Arab Gulf

Tribal Modern: Branding New Nations in the Arab Gulf

Synopsis

In the 1970s, one of the most torrid and forbidding regions in the world burst on to the international stage. The discovery and subsequent exploitation of oil allowed tribal rulers of the U.A.E, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait to dream big. How could fishermen, pearl divers and pastoral nomads catch up with the rest of the modernized world? Even today, society is skeptical about the clash between the modern and the archaic in the Gulf. But could tribal and modern be intertwined rather than mutually exclusive? Exploring everything from fantasy architecture to neo-tribal sports and from Emirati dress codes to neo-Bedouin poetry contests, Tribal Modern explodes the idea that the tribal is primitive and argues instead that it is an elite, exclusive, racist, and modern instrument for branding new nations and shaping Gulf citizenship and identity--an image used for projecting prestige at home and power abroad.

Excerpt

Bombay. February 1973.

I was running out of money. After months on the road, I was tired of traveling. Busing and hitching across Europe through Turkey to Afghanistan through the Khyber Pass and Rawalpindi to Katmandu and down to Goa for Christmas and Trivandrum for New Year’s Eve had finally slaked my wanderlust. Instead of Bali, I decided to return to Bombay and then home. Home in oh-so-far-away England.

With little money left, my only option was the “human cargo ship.” These vessels of misery left Bombay when they had filled with Indian laborers bound for the Arab Gulf. the accelerating production of oil drove the demand for migrant workers. South Asia supplied them. More and more ships were filling and leaving. At the port of Bombay, I met with the ship’s captain and handed over my twenty pounds sterling to cover the cost of my trip to the Iranian port of Khorramshahr. Before setting sail, I signed a document accepting the conditions of travel: no doctor on board.

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