GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Title of Paper:
Representing and Performing Pearling: the Gender, Identity, and Cultural Production Pearl Divers in Bahrain
Paper Proposal Text :
One of the most popular representations of the heritage of pre-oil era Gulf societies is that of the pearl diver. Museums and heritage sites in the Gulf use mannequins, statues, photographs, documentary films, oral histories, and paintings to depict divers as men — often wearing a diving suit — enacting various stages of the diving process. Narratives of divers represent them as heirs of a timeless tradition and highlight the difficulties they encountered during dives. Previously, I have written on the representation of pearl divers in the Dubai Museum to illustrate how the identity of divers of African descent have been neglected in the service of a local and national discourse that highlights the forward thinking of Dubai’s sheikh within the UAE’s heritage discourse. In this paper I look to Bahrain, once the center of the pearling economy in the Gulf region. I draw on representations of pearl divers in exhibits in Bahrain’s National Museum and heritage performances music associated with diving to reflect on larger issues of the gender, identity and cultural production in the Gulf. I interrogate the socio-cultural production of gender and identity; unpack the social, political, and economic structures and discourses that underpin gender identity construction; and providing a framework to recognize the structures of power and ideologies that operate locally, nationally, regionally and internationally.