British expatriate belonging in Dubai : foreignness, domesticity, intimacy
This thesis analyses expatriate belonging through an ethnography of the British in Dubai. As an
account of diasporic or transnational belonging, it is fully grounded in the complexity of
everyday lives. This is achieved by exploring expatriate experiences of foreignness, domesticity
and intimacy, three thematic strands that are attentive to contemporary theory in their
recognition that belonging is embodied, material and emotional respectively.
Each of the ethnographic chapters contributes to particular theoretical literatures. Focussing on
the construction and enactment of foreignness in the daily lives of expatriates, the first chapter
situates the British within Dubai's complex, racialised, social hierarchy and draws on theories of
`whiteness' and an unsettling, bodily, experience of `culture shock', to complicate our
understanding of expatriate racisms. In the second ethnographic chapter, the thesis explores
domestic material culture in British expatriates' homes, analysing belongings and the homemaking
practices in which they are involved, including display, remembering, shopping and
cleaning. The third part of the thesis highlights the emotional geographies of expatriate intimacy
as they are negotiated transnationally and within Dubai in (gendered) practices of relatedness,
conjugality, conviviality, friendship and dating. Finally, a personal reflection on the
ethnographic research experience also links my experience of ethnographic fieldwork closely
into these themes.
More generally then, by using this theoretical trinity combined with ethnographic research, the
thesis illuminates the interdependence of the (trans)national and local, the material and
imagined, as well as movement and attachment, in the everyday complexity of lived belonging.
It is argued that British expatriate belonging is characterised by multiplicity, ambivalence and
everyday negotiative effort.