NATION-BUILDING, POETRY, AND PATRONAGE: THE NABAṬĪ QAṢĪDA WAṬANĪYA;YA IN QATAR AND THE UAE
This dissertation is a work on the role of nabati poetry in Qatari and Emirati projects of nation-building and the construction of national history. This role is double. On the one hand, as this research demonstrates, the history of nabati poetry is itself constructed to reflect the longevity that helps legitimize a nation. On the other hand, nabati poetry is, like classical Arabic poetry, well-suited to contribute to projects of history construction based on its mythopoeic capacity. This dissertation studies the body of nabati poetry that stands most directly in the service of nation-building projects: wataniya poetry.A comparison of wataniya poetry with pre-modern nabati praise and boast poetry demonstrates that these thematic units have been combined and repurposed in the wataniya. Based on a close-reading of a variety of wataniyat and their comparison with other texts and practices that serve to enact allegiance, this dissertation argues that functionally speaking, the wataniya serves as an enactment of allegiance in poetic form. As allegiance performatives, wataniyat should be understood as one of the many guises of the mubaya'a, a complex of enactments of allegiance that includes textually mediated, oral, and non-verbal forms of communication.Like pre-modern praise and boast poetry, the wataniya engages in mythmaking for the sake of community-bonding and the legitimization of rule. The praise and enacted allegiance are now, however, addressed to the national leaders. As adaptation of existing material operating in a new national context, the wataniya can be understood as invented tradition on the literary level.As enactment of allegiance and contribution to the national narrative, wataniyat can be considered a symbolic gift. This dissertation includes a study of the televised poetry competition Sha'ir al-Milyun as an example of institutionalized remuneration for poetic gifts. Based on an analysis of elements of the performance setting and of a wataniya performed on the stage of Sha'ir al-Milyun, this work argues for an understanding of Sha'ir al-Milyun as system of literary patronage.
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