"It's not comfortable being who i am" - multilingual identity in superdiverse Dubai

Gary Thomas ONeill*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    9 Citations (Scopus)


    This ethnographic case study examines the factors that contribute to multilingual choices and the construction of identities in a linguistically diverse family within a linguistically diverse city, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Based on interviews with a female Emirati in her early thirties, the article examines this young woman's dispositions (habitus), beliefs and practices with regard to the language and literacy resources at her disposal. It describes how she views English and several varieties of Arabic, focusing largely on her language practices, and the role that they play in the construction and management of her identities, within personal and professional relationships and in relation to the various tasks that she performs in daily life. The study finds that in this superdiverse society, existing language ideologies, indexicalities, stereotypes, and gender issues, may render the performance of multilingualism and the construction of identities potentially rewarding but also potentially disturbing, particularly for those individuals who, through birth and/or marriage, are members of several national or ethnic communities, and who may be, in some senses, icons of superdiversity.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)215-245
    Number of pages31
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


    • multilingualism
    • superdiversity
    • language ideology
    • theory of practice
    • habitus
    • literacy
    • linguistic ethnography
    • United Arab Emirates


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