abdulhadi khalaf on contentious politics – and settler colonialism? – in bahrain


Within few decades after the ‘conquest’, Britain, the dominating power in the region at the time, recognised the al-Khalifa tribal order. On several occasions, Britain deployed its forces to quell internal clashes or ward off external foes of al-Khalifa. British support, particularly since 1869, will continue to be the major resource for the regime, for its protection, stability and prosperity. In similarity with many chiefs of other tribal orders in other parts of the Arabian side of the Gulf, the al-Khalifa signed, since the beginning of 19th century a series of agreements with Britain. These agreements recognised Pax Britannica on the one hand and the established tribal political formations, regimes, on the other.

However, unlike other the tribal regimes sanctioned by Britain, the al-Khalifa failed to assimilate within its subject population as did, for example, al-Sabah in Kuwait, al-Thani in Qatar and al-Qawassim in Ras al-Khaimah and Sharja. And, unlike these political formations, Bahrain did not develop into becoming a unified political entity nor did the Bahrainis develop into becoming a single people. Also, unlike other tribal political formations in the region, the al-Khalifas continue to jealously guard their identity/image as ‘settlers-rulers’. However, their ‘tribal’ backgrounds and identity have not been static. To the dismay among their ‘own pure bloods’, and some of their ‘anti-tribal’ opponents, al-Khalifa tribal credentials have repeatedly been revised, with several additions and deletions, to suit vagaries of local and regional politics.

The fourth Nordic conference on Middle Eastern Studies:
The Middle East in globalizing world
Oslo, 13-16 August 1998

hat-tip zunguzungu

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