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Sociopolitical and Systemic Dynamics of Race & Privilege in the GCC


As the world reacts to the killing of George Floyd, discourses of race and privilege have emerged globally, including within Gulf societies. With regards to issues of discrimination, the Gulf must not be taken as a monolith, as the dynamics in each country are unique to its own social, political, and economic circumstances and histories. The status of discrimination in the Gulf Cooperation Council states is multidimensional and often discrete in nature. The region is not composed of a homogeneous populace — there exists diversity not just in terms of race and ethnicity but also it is manifested by many other factors. Nested in each Gulf state there lies its own set of privileged and oppressed sectors of the population.

Discriminatory attitudes are not solely directed towards migrant workers and racism in the Gulf does not exist solely as an “us versus them” phenomenon. The discrimination and privileged status within the native population, especially in regards to tribal affiliation, skin color, citizenship, nationality, religious beliefs and social status, play a massive role in dictating attitudes amongst and between Gulf natives and residents.

Discrimination is both sociopolitical and systemic, and progress will require a deep questioning of historical dynamics, social norms, political power, and economic policies. How can intersectional and anti-racist behaviors be embodied in the Gulf in order to correct for discriminatory frameworks? In the face of a global pandemic, how will attitudes towards the disenfranchised continue to evolve? And how do we untangle these discourses of race and privilege in order to better understand and improve them?

Featured Speakers: Dr. Dania Thafer (moderator), Dr. Haneen Ghabra, Dr. Clemenc Chay, and Abrar Alshammari.

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