“The Debt of Gratitude”: Mobilizing “Motherhood” in Times of Unrest in the United Arab Emirates

Source of Publication

Social Science Quarterly


© 2020 by the Southwestern Social Science Association Objective: The objective of this study is to examine the framework of "motherhood" and gender identity politics in the context of growing nationalist state projects rooted in the UAE national service discourse. While the Western scholarship has extensively examined the concept of motherhood, little empirical studies have focused on the complex linkages between motherhood, state, and national service, particularly in non-Western contexts such as the UAE. Methods: The method was an in-depth field interviews with national mothers. National mothers have increasingly emerged as the new ideological “objects” of the state-led nationalist campaign to promote national military service in the UAE. The study further dissects the spatial boundaries of, and the complex relationships between motherhood and state, while simultaneously highlighting vignette of gendered narratives of various local UAE national mothers, and how they micro-view, sacrifice, cope, and respond to the ongoing state project. Results: The results show how UAE national service has shaped the daily lives and sense of belonging of UAE national mothers, their acceptance of the changes National service has brought to their families. A “debt of gratitude” is a catalyst of their attitude to a state which represents their interpretation and understanding of what they foresee as the UAE state's act of “disciplining and governmentality” in times of ongoing unrest in the broader Middle East region. Conclusion: In conclusion, UAE mothers aligned their adaptation to a new disrupted change and family relationships.

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Author First name, Last name, Institution

Rima Sabban, Zayed University

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