Boundary maintenance in Qatar: Interpretation of domination, segregation and subordination

Alexis Lay, Florida International University


This study explores the interaction of expatriates in Qatar and their perception of their subordination. The study design included participant observation in an all female University and University housing as well as interviews with Qatari government agencies and ministries, expatriate embassies and expatriates. Semi-structured interviews were conducted across seven expatriate groups: domestic workers, unskilled laborers, semiskilled, professionals, housewives, second-generation expatriates with host country other than Qatar, second-generation expatriates with host country Qatar, and Gulf Cooperation Council citizens. Forty-two subjects completed the interview schedule while 87 interviews were incomplete. ^ Physical control of expatriates occurs through the Gulf practice of sponsorship (The Kafeel System), and local cultural and Islamic related controls intertwined with the Arab Code of honor. Interviews and observations revealed rankings of Arabs and foreigners which emphasize Qatari superiority such as tribal identity, moral ranking of female groups by dress, legal protection and power, sexual consideration and desexualization and salaries and job opportunities based on nationality and ethnicity. Individuals who desire to transcend boundaries into the Qatari realm through citizenship or marriage view Qataris as possessing the “image of the unlimited good” and have acquired Qatari social and cultural capital. Members from all expatriate groups engaged in various forms of resistance to labor and gender domination which ranged from forms of “exit,” expressing a hidden transcript in the privacy of their own group, disguised resistance in public, and occasionally, direct confrontation with the Qatari. Although the legal arena created the appearance that worker's needs were being addressed, laborers engaged in forms of “exit” to escape their oppression. Omani students in the hostel disguised their resistance by spreading gossip, nick-naming homosexual Qatari students at the University, acting out a skit depicting their exclusion from Qatari privilege, spreading rumors of impending freedom, and singing songs of despair in the courtyard. Other sites of resistance were expatriate embassies, the road, the newspaper and technology. This study emphasizes that blaming oppression of the expatriate worker on globalization is a simplistic view of oppression in the Gulf, and ignores complex issues within Qatari society and other Gulf States. Sponsorship, servitude, and gender segregation intersect in Qatar to create a system of segregation and domination of expatriates. ^

Subject Area

Sociology, Industrial and Labor Relations|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies

Recommended Citation

Lay, Alexis, "Boundary maintenance in Qatar: Interpretation of domination, segregation and subordination" (2004). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3128609.