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Narrating Ourselves

Narrating Ourselves

Published on: February 2016​
Genre: Culture|Social Change|United Arab Emirates (UAE)​ Category: Social policy, Well-being and Happiness​
The UAE’s thrust onto the global stage and its endeavor to be a player in the global knowledge economy as well as a modern state that preserves local identity necessitates that it pay special attention to social science research which aims to document and understand the everyday lives of nationals and how they are impacted by local, regional, and global changes. This is for three reasons: social science allows citizens to better understand who they are collectively as a nation- their histories, identities, and struggles; enables citizens to better exploit global and local knowledge; and allows the UAE to assert its interests globally and reshape global discourse.

This paper examines the challenges to and opportunities for social science research in the UAE based on a survey of over thirty professors spanning six of the country’s major universities between July and September 2014, and on conversations with colleagues and academics in the field.

Our research found a number of significant challenges that impede research production in the UAE, as well as strengths that present important opportunities for developing social science research capabilities and increasing social science production. 

These challenges and opportunities were examined within the context of regional and global trends in academia, namely globalization and the spread of neo-liberal capitalism. It is from this departure point that this paper explores the position of the Arab world, and particularly the UAE, in the global politics of knowledge. It raises important questions on how social science research and knowledge production in the UAE is impacted by these global politics of knowledge and how globalization and the dearth of social science research impacts our abilities to self-determine, write our own narratives, and exploit global knowledge in such a way that benefits social development.

This paper is organized into three distinct parts: first, we contextualize social science in the Arab world as a whole, and the challenges it faces; second we discuss social science production in the UAE; and finally we present a set of recommendations aimed at government entities and academic and research institutions in the UAE.

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