Narratives of the Maps: Emirati Undergraduate Students’ Stories of National Identity

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The British University in Dubai (BUiD)
In 1971, the rulers of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) put their national dreams forward and celebrated the federation of the UAE. Since then, the UAE has changed rapidly to become a globalised country that aspires to achieve international prominence, thereby affecting Emiratis and exposing them to external factors at odds with Emirati values emerging from Muslim and Arab culture. This has caused great concern regarding Emirati youth national identities, and the possibility that they are building weak understandings of their culture and citizenship. This doctoral thesis explores four Emirati female undergraduate students’ experiences of national identity through cultural and political symbols. The theoretical framework is a synthesis of Mead’s (1934) and Goffman’s (1959) symbolic interactionism and Moscovici’s (1988) social representation theory. The study follows a social constructivist methodology based on narrative and ethnography using participant observations, ethnographic interviews, and visual methods to createstories of national identity experiences. The findings demonstrate that the students’ experience of national identities in everyday contexts included socially interacting with cultural and political symbols producing an internalised image of the UAE they relate to their objectives and future ambitions. Recommendations include addressing further research and theoretical implications of identity studies in the region, reviewing higher education curricula and youth programmes, as well as the need for a comprehensive cultural strategy in the UAE.
Citizenship -- Study and teaching., national Identity, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Emirati undergraduate students, higher education curricula, cultural strategy