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Changing QatarCulture, Citizenship, and Rapid Modernization$
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Geoff Harkness

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781479889075

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479889075.001.0001

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Modern Traditionalism

Modern Traditionalism

Qatar and the Arabian Gulf

(p.56) 2 Modern Traditionalism
Changing Qatar

Geoff Harkness

NYU Press

This chapter examines Qatar’s development in the context of the Arabian Gulf, the site of enormous human activity, trade, and commerce from ancient times until today. It considers how tribes influenced social and political systems in the Gulf, including the Al Thanis, the dynastic family that has ruled Qatar for more than 150 years. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Gulf was known for its pearling and fishing industries. The contemporary Gulf is characterized by modern petrocities whose enormous wealth services their nation-building aspirations. Doha vies directly with Dubai to see which metropolis can outdo the other, be it through sports, education, shopping malls, mosques, or broken world records. To compete, Qatar brands itself using a narrative of modern traditionalism, drawing from a constellation of classic and contemporary traits. The chapter explores the contours of modern traditionalism, unpacking its multiple meanings and characteristics, including generic but esteemed concepts such as freedom, authenticity, family values, and women’s empowerment. It also reveals how the government deliberately deemphasizes tribes and Islam in the narrative in order to curtail tribal power and replace it with a bureaucratic government structured to grant supremacy to the Al Thani dynasty.

Keywords:   Qatar, Arabian Gulf, branding, pearl fishing, tribes

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