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Osella, Caroline and Bristol-Rhys, Jane (2016) 'Neutralized Bachelors, Infantilized Arabs: Between Migrant and Host Gendered and Sexual Stereotypes in Abu Dhabi.' In: Lindisfarne, Nancy and Cornwall, Andrea, (eds.), Masculinities under Neoliberalism. London: Zed, pp. 111-124.

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Abstract

A “women only” working environment in Abu Dhabi typically includes several foreign migrant men who might clean, serve tea, or, in fact, lecture. Among Emiratis, these migrants are generally not perceived to be men because “they don’t count” as such. For Emiratis, only Emirati men are men; hundreds of thousands of “bachelors,” as South Asian male migrants are called, have been effectively neutered and so are not considered socially dangerous. While Emiratis recognize Pathans and Sikhs as fully masculine and hence potentially dangerous (albeit somewhat respected for this) and are therefore carefully monitored, other South Asians are grouped together and their regional specificities elided in the production of an ‘effeminate Indian’ stereotype. Indians, meanwhile, appear to be unaware of the degree to which they are effeminized in Emirati discourse. Indian migrant internal discourse infantilizes Arab men as males who lack the manly virtues of self-control and emotional restraint. All this echoes historical work on the colonial-imperial production of effeminacy, and specifically the de-masculinization of male house servants in India, but it also connects to contemporary ideas about – on the one hand - racial castration and – on the other - the hyper-masculinization of the Arab male. Our Abu Dhabi material also stands in interesting contrast to what has been discussed for Qatar, where ‘bachelor panic’ reigns (Gardner). The effective neutering of most South Asian males in the UAE seems then to be both occupationally based and also coded through ‘race.’ Meanwhile, the relatively low level of ‘bachelor panic’ in UAE is perhaps also a result of the specifics of migrant long-term embeddedness here as compared to Qatar. In this paper we explore the gendered stereotypes and tropes that shape perceptions, language and the ethnocracy of Abu Dhabi. The research presented here is drawn from Bristol-Rhys’ work among Emiratis and Osella’s work among Indian migrants, and spans decades of interviews and observation.

Item Type: Book Chapters
SOAS Departments & Centres: Legacy Departments > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of Anthropology and Sociology
Legacy Departments > Faculty of Languages and Cultures > Centre for Gender Studies
Legacy Departments > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of Anthropology and Sociology > Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies
ISBN: 9781783607655
Date Deposited: 08 Jan 2016 15:02
URI: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/21442

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