Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

2 - Transculturality as a Curse: Being a Native Alien in Mecca

Friday, March 23
10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Location: Maryland Suite B, Lobby Level

Contemporary Mecca is a strange place in the context of its history. Given its centrality to Muslim religious life, Mecca has long attracted immigrants. Consequently, its society has developed as a transcultural community. Today, Mecca’s transculturalism is under threat. Immigration has become rarer while the forced emigration of foreign residents is increasing. This paper focuses on the Fatani diapora in Mecca, many of whom are Thai nationals even though they were born and raised in the Islamic holy city. To a certain extent, such Fatanis are cultural insiders. Nevertheless, they are national outsiders. Many of them are thus exposed to the precariousness that results from Saudi Arabia’s economic program — Saudization — aimed at reducing its reliance on expatriates. As the requirements to maintain legal residence become more complex and expensive, many foreigners have made the decision to leave the kingdom while others have been deported. Millions more would have to leave or be expelled for Saudi Arabia to achieve its goals. Scholars often view transculturality favorably. In this paper, however, I show that transculturality is central to the tensions that many Fatanis experience in the current social situation in Mecca. Being native aliens, the enforcement of Saudization forces the Fatanis to reconsider the issue of belonging. Mecca is the only home they know and feel emotionally connected to. Nonetheless, they are not Saudi nationals and thus belong to the category of persons targeted by Saudization.

Muhammad Arafat Bin Mohamad

National University of Singapore, Not Applicable, Singapore


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2 - Transculturality as a Curse: Being a Native Alien in Mecca

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