Constructions of Whiteness in French Expatriation in Abu Dhabi: from distinctive progressivism to conservative differentialism

By Claire Cosquer

This article explores how the claim of progressivism serves racialized distinction. Taking the case of the constitution of the French “expatriate” group in Abu Dhabi, the article examines how these progressive discourses combine with seemingly competing conservative registers, close to the types of discourses and worldviews described by analysts of the far right. In particular, it shows how the experience of migration allows for the coexistence of these two discourses, without confusing them. In the first section, the article analyzes how the expatriate experience fosters modes of racialized distinction played out on the terrain of political progressivism: this distinctive investment of progressivism, far from being limited to the question of gender and sexuality, aggregates different political objects and more generally constructs the cultural capacity for democracy as a symbolic boundary between social groups. In a second section, the article shows that the context of Abu Dhabi favors a mode of distinction that mobilizes discursive registers traditionally associated with conservatism, such as order and the preservation of national identity from miscegenation. In the third part, the article questions the articulation of these two seemingly competing registers in the transnational theater shaped by migration.

  • expatriation
  • migration
  • United Arab Emirates
  • sexual nationalism
  • whiteness
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