Unsettling State: Non-Citizens, State Power, and Citizenship in the United Arab Emirates


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Comparative Politics


This dissertation examines state power and citizenship in the UAE where almost 90% of the population are non-citizens. It explains how state-building has developed around the construction of a citizen/non-citizen boundary over the past 40 years. Combining ethnographic and archival methods, the dissertation weaves together the institutional (state) and discursive (citizen) levels of these boundary-drawing processes to show how they limit and shape citizenship practices. The study examines this citizen/non-citizen boundary through an analysis of the contestations between top-down state interventions and bottom-up civil society forces around three core issues of residency, naturalization, and the selective enforcement of cultural and moral codes. It finds that as citizens partake in the enforcement of this boundary, they increasingly face the scrutiny and impermanence experienced by migrants. The case contributes to the study of how non-citizen labor impacts the political development and citizenship practices of labor-receiving countries.