Strategic Transnationalism: The Indian Diasporic Elite in Contemporary Bahrain

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City and Society


Sociology & Anthropology


This paper provides an ethnographic window into the lives of the middle and upper classes of the substantial Indian diaspora in Bahrain. Like all the Gulf States, Bahrain hosts an extraordinarily large contingent of guest workers. Through a variety of historical conjunctures, Indians have long predominated in the flow of foreigners to the small island. In this paper I consider the experiences of the elite minority of that diaspora. While many aspects of their day-to-day experiences differ from those of their impoverished diasporic countrymen and countrywomen, I argue that they also face a variety of noteworthy vulnerabilities and dilemmas unique to their class position. In the final accounting, members of this Indian diasporic elite deploy a strategic transnationalism against the systemic vulnerabilities rendered by the sponsorship system currently in place in Bahrain.