Nation building and social change in the United Arab Emirates through the invention of Emirati cuisine

Eloísa Martín

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


This article aims to analyse how the invention of a national cuisine in the United Arab Emirates takes part in the journey of building the nation, both as a metaphor and as performance of larger political and ideological processes. It analyses the discourses of chefs and professional cooks that are or have been tagged as Emirati food experts. In the Emirati nation building process, the construction of identity is not ‘defined by the other’ against which the image of a common ‘us’ should be reflected. This is also mirrored in the national cuisine in the making, which is developing mostly endogamously. Emirati food both participates in and tells the story of nation building in the UAE, through three overlapping stages of development: traditional, modern and fusion food, which correspond to different moments of the perceived nation development and its fit within Western definitions of both national-states and modernity. Emirati food also helps to create identity borders, by defining who is allowed to taste the authentic flavours, through practices of commensality, and who is able to replicate them in restaurants. This article highlights the connections between nation building, social transformation and food, and explores the ways in which constructions of Emirati cuisine reflect discourses and practices of national belonging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)538-559
Number of pages22
JournalSociological Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


  • Emirati cuisine
  • Emirati food
  • United Arab Emirates
  • nation building
  • social change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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