Migrant Labour, Immobility and Invisibility in Literature on the Arab Gulf States

  • Nadeen Dakkak
Part of the Studies in Mobilities, Literature, and Culture book series (SMLC)


Restrictive migration policies in the Arab Gulf States aim to ensure the temporary stay of migrant workers and to prevent what is seen as their political, economic and cultural threat on host countries and their citizens. By examining two novels on migrant workers’ experiences in different Gulf places—Taleb Alrefai’s Ẓill Al-Shams (The Shadow of the Sun, 1998) and Benyamin’s Goat Days (2008)—this chapter argues that discriminatory and exclusionary policies result in the creation of a locale in which individual migrants are deprived of having authority over their own movement and are unable to connect with their material surroundings. Their mobility or immobility, a direct result of their subjugation to the material environment, is an actual reflection of their marginalization and lack of power vis-à-vis the state and its citizens.


  1. Adey, Peter. 2006. “If Mobility is Everything Then it is Nothing: Towards a Relational Politics of (Im)mobilities.” Mobilities 1 (1): 75–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adey, Peter. 2017. Mobility, 2nd ed. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Adey, Peter, David Bissel, Kevin Hannam, Peter Merriman, and Mimi Sheller. 2014. “Introduction.” In The Routledge Handbook of Mobilities, edited by Peter Adey, et al., 1–20. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. Ahmad, Attiya. 2012. “Beyond Labor: Foreign Residents in the Persian Gulf States.” In Migrant Labor in the Persian Gulf, edited by Mehran Kamrava and Zahra Babar, 21–40. London: Hurst.Google Scholar
  5. Alissa, Reem. 2009. “Modernizing Kuwait: Nation-Building and Unplanned Spatial Practices.” Berkeley Planning Journal 22 (1): 84–91.
  6. Alrefai, Taleb. 1992. Abū ʿAjāj Ṭāl ʿUmrak [Abu Ajaj, May God Give You Long Life!]. Beirut: Al-Adab.Google Scholar
  7. Alrefai, Taleb. 2012. Ẓill al-Shams [The Shadow of the Sun]. Cairo: Al-Shorouk.Google Scholar
  8. Amin, Galal. 2005. Whatever Happened to the Egyptians? Changes in Egyptian Society from 1950 to the Present. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press.Google Scholar
  9. Babar, Zahra. 2013. “Migration Policy and Governance in the GCC: A Regional Perspective.” In Labor Mobility: An Enabler for Sustainable Development, edited by Ali Rashid Al-Noaimi and Irena Omelaniuk, 121–142. Abu Dhabi and Cambridge: The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research and Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Benyamin. 2012. Goat Days. Translated by Joseph Koyippally. Haryana: Penguin India.Google Scholar
  11. Collins, Francis Leo. 2011. “Transnational Mobilities and Urban Spatialities: Notes from the Asia-Pacific.” Progress in Human Geography 36 (3): 316–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Crystal, Jill. 2005. “Public Order and Authority: Policing Kuwait.” In Monarchies and Nations: Globalisation and Identity in the Arab States of the Gulf, edited by Paul Dresch and James Piscatori, 158–181. London: I.B. Tauris.Google Scholar
  13. Dresch, Paul. 2006. “Foreign Matter: The Place of Strangers in Gulf Society.” In Globalization and the Gulf, edited by John W. Fox, Nada Mourtada-Sabbah, and Mohammed al-Mutawa, 200–222. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  14. Elsheshtawy, Yasser. 2010. “Little Space, Big Space: Everyday Urbanism in Dubai.” Brown Journal of World Affairs 17 (1): 53–71.Google Scholar
  15. Fortier, Anne-Marie. 2014. “Migration Studies.” In The Routledge Handbook of Mobilities, edited by Peter Adey, et al., 64–73. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  16. Gardner, Andrew M. 2010. City of Strangers: Gulf Migration and the Indian Community in Bahrain. New York: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Gardner, Andrew M. 2012. “Why Do They Keep Coming? Labor Migrants in the Persian Gulf States.” In Migrant Labor in the Persian Gulf, edited by Mehran Kamrava and Zahra Babar, 41–58. London: Hurst.Google Scholar
  18. Gardner, Andrew M., and Sharon Nagy. 2008. “Introduction: New Ethnographic Fieldwork Among Migrants, Residents and Citizens in the Arab States of the Gulf.” City and Society 20 (1): 1–4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ibrahim, Saad Eddin. 1982. The New Arab Social Order: A Study of the Social Impact of Oil Wealth. Colorado: Westview.Google Scholar
  20. Kanna, Ahmed. 2012. “A Politics of Non-recognition? Biopolitics of Arab Gulf Worker Protests in the Year of Uprisings.” Interface 4 (1): 146–164.Google Scholar
  21. Kathiravelu, Laavanya. 2016. Migrant Dubai: Low Wage Workers and the Construction of a Global City. New York: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  22. Kendall, David. 2012. “Always Let the Road Decide: South Asian Labourers Along the Highways of Dubai, UAE: A Photographic Essay.” South Asian Diaspora 4 (1): 45–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Khalaf, Sulayman. 2006. “The Evolution of the Gulf City Type, Oil, and Globalization.” In Globalization and the Gulf, edited by John W. Fox, Nada Mourtada-Sabbah, and Mohammed al-Mutawa, 244–265. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  24. Mohammad, Robina, and James D. Sidaway. 2016. “Shards and Stages: Migrant Lives, Power, and Space Viewed from Doha, Qatar.” Annals of the American Association of Geographers 106 (6): 1397–1417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Osella, Caroline, and Filippo Osella. 2008. “‘I am Gulf’: The Production of Cosmopolitanism in Kozhikode, Kerala, India.” In Struggling with History: Islam and Cosmopolitanism in the Western Indian Ocean, edited by Edward Simpson and Kai Kresse, 323–355. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Rahman, Anisur. 2010. “Migration and Human Rights in the Gulf.” Viewpoints: Migration and the Gulf, 16–18.
  27. Saad, Reem. 2012. “Margins and Frontiers.” In Marginality and Exclusion in Egypt, edited by Ray Bush and Habib Ayeb, 97–111. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press.Google Scholar
  28. Urry, John. 2007. Mobilities. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  29. Vora, Neha, and Natalie Koch. 2015. “Everyday Inclusions: Rethinking Ethnocracy, Kafala, and Belonging in the Arabian Peninsula.” Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism 15 (3): 540–552.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nadeen Dakkak
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of English and Comparative Literary StudiesUniversity of WarwickCoventryUK

Personalised recommendations