Changing QatarCulture, Citizenship, and Rapid Modernization

Changing QatarCulture, Citizenship, and Rapid Modernization

Geoff Harkness

Print publication date: 2021

ISBN: 9781479889075

Publisher: NYU Press


Qatar is the wealthiest country in the world—and one of the fastest growing. Its current population is five times larger than it was in 2000. Photos of the Arabian Gulf micronation from the 1980s show a few modest one-story buildings. Today, Qatar’s capital, Doha, is a modern petro-boomtown whose futuristic skyline features a phalanx of space-age skyscrapers. In 2022, Qatar will be the first Arab nation to host the FIFA World Cup. To prepare, Qatar’s government has imported more than one million low-wage workers to construct outdoor air-conditioned soccer stadiums, subway systems, and megahotels. Today, Qatari nationals represent only about 10 percent of their country’s population. Changing Qatar explores how citizenship and nationality are reshaped in these global processes. The nation’s dynastic ruling family assures its conservative Muslim citizenry that Qatar’s rapid modernization will take place alongside cultural preservation. In doing so, the leadership employs modern traditionalism, a flexible narrative framework in which customary and contemporary are strategically merged. Based on three years of immersive fieldwork and 130 revealing interviews, Changing Qatar goes beyond the slogans to examine how the people who inhabit Qatar are coming to terms with its ascent. The book demonstrates how Qataris and non-Qataris reaffirm—and challenge—traditions in many areas of everyday life, from dating and marriage to clothing and humor to gender and sports. A cultural study of citizenship, Changing Qatar delivers a richly detailed portrait of this rising Gulf nation that cannot be found elsewhere.