Labour agency and the Dubai Irish

Carter, Frances
An Irish community has been established in Dubai since 1974, with a surge in those migrating from Ireland to Dubai during the Great Recession (2008-2014). Since 2014 the approximate number of Irish migrants has increased from 3,500 to 20,000. Dubai is demographically characterised by the low numerical minority status of Emiratis, a population ratio of males to females of 4.1:3, and a socio-economic hierarchy that consists of an ambiguous tiered system of socio-political rights among locals and migrants based on ethnicity, gender and class. This study focussed on the constituent reworking strategies of labour agency among the Dubai Irish. These strategies manifest in intersecting and multi-scalar social, cultural and professional relationships embedded in compressed space-time contexts. This study had two aims. The first aim was to identify the reworking strategies of the Dubai Irish, the second aim was to ground and situate Dubai Irish migration in the structure-agency dichotomy, at the intersecting social relations of ethnicity, gender and class, in an anomalous, capitalist, new immigrant destination. The study was informed by a social constructivist epistemology and explored individual and collective co-constructions of social realities, using a qualitative research framework. Twenty-seven interviews were conducted with sixteen women and twelve men. Two re-working strategies were identified: white Irishness and the Irish ‘wafidah’, as embodied forms of cultural capital. The study also revealed how an Irish migrant community becomes established in a new immigrant destination and explains the formation and accumulation of multifarious capitals, within the social categorisations of ethnicity, gender and class, and how these are transfigured to Irish migrant capital localised as ‘wasta’.
NUI Galway
Publisher DOI
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Ireland