Militarism and the Bedouin: Intersections of colonialism, gender, and race in the Arab Gulf

Haya Al-Noaimi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article investigates the development of militarism in the Arab Gulf using the militarized representation of the Bedouin and their poetic tradition as a site for its analysis. The article traces the ways in which Bedouin ‘martial masculinities’ and Bedouin culture have been appropriated and transformed by British colonialism and postcolonial nationalisms to produce unusual patterns of militarism within the Gulf. It addresses a gap in international relations and security studies literature, in which militarism is examined through state-centric and methodologically nationalist framings that largely overlook transnational and colonial histories. The article argues that contemporary displays of militarism by Qatar and the United Arab Emirates should be read in relation to how colonialism engendered militarism across the Gulf region through the paradoxical representation of the Bedouin as a ‘martial race’ whose martial-ness was also seen as a security ‘threat’ for the colonial/postcolonial state. Militarized responses and rationalities were normalized within Gulf society through the ‘Bedouin warrior’ stereotype, which served as a timeless and fixed construct, connecting the Gulf’s disjointed past to its present-day context. Significantly, the ‘Bedouin warrior’ stereotype helps foster the belief that stability and historical continuity underpin state-modernization processes in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The article’s intervention seeks to disrupt this continuity by looking at how militarism and its martial constructs created ruptures in state trajectories, using the example of the 1996 coup attempt, citizen revocations, and the depoliticization of the poetic act as evidence for the claim that militarism engenders particular insecurities for Bedouin populations in the Arab Gulf.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)529-545
Number of pages17
JournalSecurity Dialogue
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Arab Gulf
  • Bedouin warrior
  • colonialism
  • gender
  • militarization
  • poetry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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