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Dubai Camel Market Transnational Workers: An Ethnographic Portrait



The paper presents an ethnographic documentation of life conditions and work patterns of transnational camel workers in the UAE. The ethnographic evidence presented is based on field work carried out in 2005 in Dubai Nad Al-Sheba camel market and in the adjacent camel racetrack and camel farms. Intermittent field visits were also carried out during 2007and 2008. The data is presented in the form of short synopses of kin-related workers who come from Asian and Arab countries, such as Pakistan, Sudan and Syria. The main thesis of this study revolves around how members of the various ethnic groups working in the market managed in spite of the transitory, precarious and underclass globalized life conditions at the margins of Dubai city to reconstruct numerous aspects of their local communities. They activated traditional multiplex relationships as survival mechanisms. These included the utilization of traditional social capital, symbiotic economic networks, family nesting, kinship bonding and mutual support for fellow ethnic migrants. Locality here is equated with the activation of village/tribal social habitus.