From Golden Frontier to Global City: Shifting Forms of Belonging, “Freedom,” and Governance among Indian Businessmen in Dubai



ABSTRACT  In this article, I consider how the Dubai government's shift in economic focus from maritime trade networks toward large-scale, Western-style multinational development projects threatened the forms of belonging that Indian merchants had carved out in the emirate during and after British colonialism in the region, and before the liberalization of India's economy, even as Indian merchants were to some extent participants in the production of Dubai as a “global city.” I argue that Indian merchants were performing forms of substantive citizenship in Dubai that resemble forms of belonging among South Asian diasporas located in Western liberal democratic contexts. I explore how this was happening despite the lack of formal modes of citizenship and permanent belonging available to Indians in contemporary Dubai and in response to changes in Dubai's migration, economic, and political policies that reduced their privileged status in the country.