PEARL INDUSTRY IN THE UAE REGION IN 1869-1938: ITS CONSTRUCTION, REPRODUCTION, AND DECLINE

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Abstract


The article focuses on the United Arab Emirates’ pearl industry during the period of British colonialization of the Arabian Gulf region, and, specifically, during the rise and decline of the pearl industry. The article aims to explore and analyze the development of the pearl industry in the UAE region, how it was constructed and reproduced from 1869 to 1938. One of the objectives of the study is to show that the pearl industry in the UAE region was a social construction in which the minority profited from financing the pearl extraction and export of pearls. The research also revels political, economic, and cultural factors of the reproduction of the pearl industry. The author shows that it was the colonial power behind the construction and reproduction of the pearl industry that was hierarchically structured. Within the hierarchical structure, the British rule implanted the financiers of the pearl industry, who served at the top level of the hierarchy. Other classes within this hierarchy consisted of local tujar merchants, tawawish middlemen, nawakhodha ship captains, ghawasin divers, siyub divers’ assistants, etc. The research proves the exploitative nature of the pearl industry financial distribution among different strata. The differences within the hierarchy in terms of role, power, myth, and financial distribution further helped this reproduction. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, several factors led to the decline of the pearl diving industry, such as the spread of Japanese cultural pearling. This decline led to the decline of all the classes in the UAE pearling industry and to the rise of new classes related to the oil industry. The article considers a wide range of approaches ranging from statistical, from British archival materials, to discursive analysis of the relationships between colonial and local, rules and citizens, local and non-local, and different strata within the hierarchy of the pearl industry.

About the authors

K Aqil

United Arab Emirates University

Email: a.kazim@uaeu.ac.ae
P.O. Box 15551, Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates -

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