Deina Rabie

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Texas, Austin, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9763

Approve Date

October 24, 2018

Project Title

Rabie, Deina, U. of Texas, Austin, TX - To aid research on 'The English Channel: Language and Gendered Mobility among Emirati Women in the United Arab Emirates,' supervised by Dr. Elizabeth Keating

Preliminary abstract: My doctoral research investigates how first and second-generation Emirati female university matriculators use English language acquisition and higher education to gain professional and social mobility in the United Arab Emirates’ multinational workforce while simultaneously negotiating an ethnically marked female Muslim identity. In the wake of dwindling oil revenues and their associated welfare benefits, socioeconomic advancement has become a major concern for Emirati women, who comprise nearly half of the UAE’s 15% elite, autochthonous minority, set against an 85% foreign worker majority. Before the discovery of oil, Emirati women actively participated in the domestic industries of their tribal communities. However, since the creation of the UAE nation in 1971, welfare benefits from oil income have been channeled to families through Emirati men, who have also benefited from growth in state employment while holding only secondary school diplomas. Conversely, women’s mobility–their access to people and places outside the family and home–has been tied primarily to the country’s English-medium higher education system. Nowadays, women are pursuing higher education and thus English proficiency at double the rate of men to enhance their physical, social and economic mobility by competing for positions with male compatriots and white-collar expatriates in the country’s multinational workforce. My project focuses on how, amid the UAE’s shifting economic structures, English and higher education have become crucial passage points for Emirati women to actively participate in an increasingly neoliberal economy. I frame my project through the anthropology of infrastructure, discourse-centered approaches to language, and feminist anthropology.