CUREJ - College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal

Crystallizing a Discourse of "Khalijiness": Exclusion and Citizenship in the Arab Gulf States

Khaled A. Abdulkarim, University of Pennsylvania

Division: Social Sciences

Dept/Program: Near Eastern Langs & Civ; Political Science

Document Type: Undergraduate Student Research

Mentor(s): Heather Sharkey

Date of this Version: 15 May 2017


A senior thesis submitted to the Huntsman Program in Business and International Studies, the University of Pennsylvania, in partial fulfillment of the program degree requirements.


For many of the Arab Gulf countries, non-national populations constitute the majority of the population, with the discrepancy between the size of the national and non-national populations continuing to grow. It is in this context that the role played by these non-national populations becomes critically important. In my paper, I argue that exclusion of non-national populations from state-sponsored national identities, as manifest through citizenship rights, plays a pivotal role in fostering imagined national identities and communities among the local Arab Gulf citizens. The study considers two cases in particular: the bidoon (stateless) of Kuwait and middle-class Indian migrants in Dubai. Using a variety of primary and secondary sources, I explore the ways in which the two aforementioned populations are excluded, how they contended with their exclusion, and finally attempt reconcile what, in broad terms, constitutes the overarching khaleeji – Gulf – identity that this exclusion has sought to foster. On one hand, the study finds that the bidoon of Kuwait's pursuit of inclusion is rooted in their ethnic heritage as Arabs and the Kuwaiti, tribal-rooted national identity. On the other hand, the middle-class Indian migrants of Dubai embrace their exclusion because of their self-perceived temporariness in the city and instead exhibit a sense of dual-belonging. In light of this, the study considers how the resultant khaleeji identity crystalizes around its exceptions and exclusions, while highlighting the performative and nationalistic aspects of it.


Near Eastern Languages and Societies

Suggested Citation

Abdulkarim, Khaled A., "Crystallizing a Discourse of "Khalijiness": Exclusion and Citizenship in the Arab Gulf States" 15 May 2017. CUREJ: College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal, University of Pennsylvania,

Date Posted: 17 May 2017




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