Memories of enslavement are often silenced and yet suffuse everyday life in the Gulf. As governments across the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries memorialize a maritime, pre-oil Indian Ocean past as part of their nation-building projects, the Bin Jelmood House—a museum in the heart of Doha—stands as a potentially subversive space. The museum forces visitors and Gulf residents to reckon with slavery and the exploitation of labor, in the past and present. Yet the larger context around the museum begs the question: How are national imaginaries produced and deployed in the international arena through museums and heritage projects and do they illuminate or obscure historical and contemporary injustices?
A recent report suggests that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) may be looking to expand…again. The report says that, during a March summit, the group of six Arab petro-princedoms extended invitations to both Jordan and Morocco to join a pan-monarchical military alliance. And there is a chance, at least, that the GCC states would include a nominal republic, Egypt, in a broader regional military and defense pact (although it is not clear if Jordan, Morocco and Egypt would need to join the GCC or the military bloc would be a separate entity).
In late June 2013, as neighboring Arab states continued their struggles against popular pressure for political reform or regime change, the Gulf emirate of Qatar undertook its own, voluntary transfer of power. Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, patriarch of modern Qatar, appeared on state television to name as successor his 33-year old son, Sheikh Tamim. The outgoing leader was hobbled by serious health problems, it was said, and in any case most observers agreed that a recalibration of Qatar’s domestic and international agendas was perhaps just what the doctor ordered.