Identity and Globalisation: Tribal Identity in the Age of Social Media
The age of globalisation and technology have provided people with a platform to stay connected with each other. As elsewhere, social media is rapidly spreading in the Gulf region and creating a virtual forum for people to express their opinions, ideas and feelings toward current issues both regionally and globally. Such a feature has been used politically by both governments and individuals, particularly since the outbreak of the Arab Spring in 2011. In 2017, a new crisis has hit the Gulf region when three member states (The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain) of the GCC cut off relations and blockaded Qatar based on terrorism-related allegations. One major aspect of the crisis has been the politicised use of social media to spread information and mobilise people. The paper will mainly focus on the use and effect of social media on the tribes in the Gulf. Firstly, the paper will discuss the bond that tribes have with each other regardless of their nationalities and how technology provided them with a way to be closer. During the Gulf crisis, the three blockading countries used tribal identity to threaten political stabiliy, and consequently focused their efforts on influencing local and most influential tribes in Qatar. The mobilisation process relied heavily on the tribal traditions and feelings, which due to technology can be disseminated through social media. It has opened up a virtual space to mobilise and direct tribes to convince their fellow tribesmen in Qatar to bring down the regime. Finally, the paper will analyse the reaction of the Qatari government and tribes as well as the gradual consolidation of a Qatari national identity as a consequence of identity re-configurations associated with the ongoing crisis.