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Courtney Freer

February 21st, 2020

Heritage and National Identity Construction in the Gulf: Between State-building and Grassroots Initiatives

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Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Courtney Freer

February 21st, 2020

Heritage and National Identity Construction in the Gulf: Between State-building and Grassroots Initiatives

0 comments | 1 shares

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

by Courtney Freer

The Corniche in Doha, Spring 2008, with the New District construction work taking place across the Doha Bay. Source: Paul Cowan, Shutterstock

On 5–6 December 2019, the LSE Middle East Centre organised a workshop entitled ‘Heritage and National Identity Construction in the Gulf: Between State-building and Grassroots Initiatives,’ as part of an academic collaboration with Dr. Rima Sabban of Zayed University funded by the Centre’s Academic Collaborations with Arab Universities Programme. The workshop, the second convened in connection to the collaborative project, brought together experts from a variety of disciplines, including museums studies, political science, sociology, and anthropology to understand the tensions and harmonies between state-led and popularly led efforts at building heritage and national identity in the Gulf. Over the course of the two days, participants interrogated the extent to which these two visions actually exist as distinct categories, while also parsing out similarities and differences in heritage projects across the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The blog posts that follow highlight the wide-ranging and interdisciplinary nature of the discussions, which were organised into six panels: construction of national identity: state efforts; construction of national identity: grassroots efforts; managing Gulf museums; construction of national identity: religion and heritage; military, heritage, and national identity; and heritage outside museums.


In this series:

  • Souvenir Sovereignty in Qatar by Suzi Mirgani
  • Examining Kuwait National Museum by Sundus Alrashid
  • Urban Planning and Legacy Making in Kuwait by Alexandra Gomes
  • Museums as Political Institutions of National Identity Reproduction: Are Gulf States an Exception? By Idil Akinci
  • The New Populist Nationalism in Saudi Arabia: Imagined Utopia by Royal Decree by Madawi Al-Rasheed
  • Heritage and Sectarianism in Bahrain by Thomas Fibiger
  • Dubai Expo 2020 and Ancient Mercantile Heritage by Robert Mogielnicki
  • Managing UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Saudi Arabia: Contribution and Future Directions by Abdulelah Al-Tokhais
  • Finding Mariam: the Invisible Woman in National Heritage Mythology by Alanoud Al-sharekh
  • Cultural Attendance: Attracting the Crowds to Museums in Saudi Arabia by Maha al-Senan
  • Religion and Heritage in the Gulf: Significant in its Absence? by Courtney Freer
  • Historical Archaeology in the Arabian Gulf by Robert Carter
  • Militarised Nationalism in the Gulf Monarchies: Crafting the Heritage of Tomorrow by Eleonora Ardemagni
  • The Practice of Heritage in the Northern United Arab Emirates by Matthew MacLean
  • Displaying the nation in museum exhibitions in Qatar: a comparative approach by Alexandra Bounia
  • The UAE State ‘Rebirthing’ of Motherhood: Who is birthing who? by Rima Sabban
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About the author

Courtney Freer

Courtney Freer is Assistant Professorial Research Fellow at the Middle East Centre. Her research focuses on domestic politics of the Gulf states, with particular interest in Islamism and tribalism. She tweets at @courtneyfreer

Posted In: Conferences | Featured | GCC

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