Student researchers examine concept of belonging

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From left to right, Reem AlMheiri (graduate research assistant), Sharon Aruparayil (graduate research assistant), Bethany Shockley (principal investigator), Zaineb Qureishi (consulting assistant), and Salma Thani (co-investigator) (COURTESY PHOTO).

By Shamma Al Maktoum

UNIVERSITY CITY, SHARJAH – An American University of Sharjah assistant professor is hoping that many voices are heard through her project “Transforming Societies,” a university-funded effort to understand concepts of belonging and bargaining in the UAE.

Political Scientist Dr. Bethany Shockley said she is leading a multidisciplinary publication along with gulf studies scholar Dr. Salma Thani and geographer Dr. Michael Ewers. 

She added that the academic research is funded by AUS under a faculty grant. 

She said the project is funded for two years. It began on June 1, 2023 and will end May 31, 2025.

Shockley added that this study, being done through interviewing expatriates and locals, could fill a hole in the literature on how different experiences could be unified in the understudied area of the Northern Emirates. 

She said the team hopes to synthesize experiences of multi-generational and diverse communities through employing student interviewers.

The idea came about, she said, after her work in Qatar in 2014, when she decided to analyze the same concepts in the UAE.

The desired outcome for the project, she said, is to push boundaries to identify how experiences of foreigners and nationals could fit in an integrated framework.

She said she is thrilled to see students take this opportunity and learn about their heritage and identity through valuable conversations.