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Mobilities, Boundaries, and Travelling Ideas

Philipp Schröder
Manja Stephan-Emmrich

Part 1. Crossing Boundaries: Mobilities Then and Now

2. Crossing Economic and Cultural Boundaries: Tajik Middlemen in the Translocal Dubai Business Sector

Abdullah Mirzoev et Manja Stephan-Emmrich

Texte intégral


1Thirty-seven-year-old Firuz visited Dubai for the first time in December 2007. He came to celebrate the New Year with many other tourists in front of the Burj Khalifa tower. Firuz worked for a construction company in Moscow, but after his Dubai trip he left Russia to join a friend who was running a business exporting second-hand cars from the United Arab Emirates to Tajikistan. In Dubai, Firuz had quickly come to appreciate the better living conditions and business-friendly environment that would allow him to earn money in culturally familiar surroundings, able to move around the city and live his life free from the migrant deportation regime in Russia. After his vacation, Firuz bought a Japanese-made car from Dubai and thus became involved in his friend’s export business:

‘From the first time, when I came to Dubai, I found this environment much better than Moscow. People everywhere were speaking Persian (farsi) and Russian and the main clients of Tajiks in Dubai are Russian tourists here […] many shop owners and vendors are Iranians or Afghans, who speak in a language I do understand. Here in Dubai, a big number of Tajik migrants collaborate closely with our Afghan and Iranian fellow brothers. And everyone is friendly. Being a tourist and working in a small business, I am walking in the streets, beaches and near hotels, offering various stuff to tourists to get a commission. This is not hard work and I am not worrying about being stopped by the police like in Moscow. I am free (ozod). I am not dependent on anyone and my monthly income now is much higher than in Moscow’ (Dubai, 2012).

2Like Firuz, many Tajiks try to get a foothold in Dubai’s vibrant economy. When Dubai’s growing popularity reached Tajikistan’s markets and households in the late 1990s-early 2000s, many Tajiks were attracted by the United Arab Emirates’ brand of ‘autocratic Islamic governance combined with neoliberal economics’, which suggested a post-Western form of modernization (Kathiravelu 2016:39). They longed for Dubai as an alternative and ideal place abroad that promised to help them overcome the precarious conditions of Tajikistan’s and Russia’s economic sectors.

  • 1 This chapter is the outcome of collaborative fieldwork in Dubai in winter 2012/13. Although both au (...)

3Based on the results of our long-term, multi-sited ethnographic and fieldwork in Tajikistan and the United Arab Emirates between 2010 and 2014, this chapter explores how Tajiks capitalize on their university degrees in economics, international relations, agriculture, and engineering, as well as on their language skills and social connections (svyazi, aloqa) in both Tajikistan and Russia, to integrate into Dubai’s booming global tourism and transregional trading sector.1 Both areas are dominated by established Iranian companies, Iranian entrepreneurs, and Afghan traders and businessmen, most of whom quickly came to appreciate the cultural skills and business connections of Tajiks, who provide ways to communicate with Russians and can move flexibly in and across different cultural settings.

4As a result, and as the ethnographic case study of Dilshod and Rustam in this chapter will illustrate, Tajiks working in Dubai’s informal economy turn into middlemen who connect different economic actors in different business sectors and effectively mediate among their Tajikistan, Russia, and Dubai-based business networks. They thereby create a translocal space of connectedness and belonging, which transgresses cultural and economic boundaries, crosses different regions, and links Russia’s growing middle-class tourism and post-Soviet history as a migration destination with the different trading traditions and business cultures of Afghans and Iranians. These translocal spaces, socio-spatial religions and economic practices form what we call the translocal ‘Tajik Dubai business’, by analogy with the Kyrgyz ‘China Business’ Philipp Schröder describes in Chapter Eight. Although articulated by our interlocutors as an alternative or exit option, we argue that the Tajik Dubai business does not create ruptures with previous economic activities and environments in Tajikistan and Russia. In fact, Dubai, with its vibrant economic sector, becomes a pivotal spatial knot of a larger socio-spatial configuration, which creates a ‘cultural nestedness’ or ‘cosiness’ (Finke 2003) that enables Tajiks to involve themselves successfully in, as well as shape, new fields of economic activity. In this capacity, Tajik middlemen enrich the interregional history of the emirate’s merchant cosmopolitanism (Osella and Osella 2012, Ahmed 2012). Furthermore, since they can draw on their cultural familiarity with Afghans, with Sunni-Hanafi Iranians mostly from Baluchistan, and with Russian (or Russian-speaking) tourists, Tajik middlemen in Dubai have become creative and innovative agents of globalization as the case studies of Rustam and Dilshod will illustrate.

5Studies on migration from Tajikistan focus more broadly on labour migration to Russia (Olimova 2013, Khusenova 2013, Roche 2014, among others). Therefore, they obscure the fact that each of the post-Soviet states (CIS), including post-Soviet Tajikistan, has connected with the global scene in very different ways, and that the global trading business and tourism sectors in the vibrant urban centres of the Gulf have made an important contribution to this phenomenon; not least as a promising ‘Muslim’ alternative to Russia’s exploitative and Central Asia’s limited and unstable labour market (Stephan-Emmrich 2017). In this chapter we want to complement our previous focus on how Muslims in Tajikistan have become involved in the global market of Islamic lifestyle consumption (Stephan-Emmrich and Mirzoev 2016) by shifting our anthropological gaze from Tajikistan to Dubai’s vibrant mercantile and migration economy, as well as to the urban places where translocal economic actions, connections, and relations take on a spatialized form, i.e., the migrant guesthouses in the neighborhood of Dubai Deira. Thus, we are driven by our interest in how Tajiks actively shape the complex, dynamic, and multifaceted nature of Dubai’s informal economy.

  • 2 Although the Tajik Dubai business is not solely a male issue and also involves businesswomen, femal (...)

6By conceptualizing Tajiks working in Dubai not as one-dimensional ‘migrants’ but showing how they act as ‘middlemen’ (posrednik, kamak)2 we also want to point to the shortcomings of the United Arab Emirates’ hegemonic discourse about ‘foreign migrant workers’ that frames Tajiks, like other foreigners in the Gulf, solely in regard to the labour they do and the economic outcomes they estimate from it, and thus reduces them to homo economicus only (Ahmad 2012). Moreover, understanding Tajiks’ position in Dubai’s informal economy as that of middlemen and mediators, we emphasize their capacity to capitalize on their cultural and social skills and resources in order to pursue successful livelihoods, thus making sense of their precarious life conditions and the mobility regimes they have to deal with. Furthermore, the concept of middlemen opens up new epistemological avenues for understanding ‘livelihood’ not merely in economic terms but, more broadly, as a concept that links economic strategies with forms of longing and belonging and the assessment of wellbeing (Schröder and Stephan-Emmrich 2014). This includes, as Firuz described above, the experience of economic freedom and safety when moving in public, as well as the possibility of a transnational lifestyle that enables the combination of living in an attractive tourist site with pursuing a successful business, while staying connected with ‘home’ (Pelican 2014). Finally, as we will show, the ‘middlemen’ concept highlights the capacity of Tajiks to leave the centre of their own networks, to cross various boundaries, and to deal with difference, thereby translating different cultural and economic contexts.

Avenues into the translocal ‘Dubai business’

7Tajikistan’s integration into Dubai’s economy began with the first official visit of President Rahmon to the United Arab Emirates in December 1995. Since that time, the Tajikistan-Dubai business relationship has developed, and now covers different forms of state and non-state collaborations in the fields of trading, technology, investment, and tourism. A striking interrelationship between tourism and trade existed from the very beginning. Although economic avenues into the Gulf were initiated first by the government and economic elites, the Tajikistan-Dubai business relationship is to a large extent sustained, developed, and expanded by traders as well as small and middle-scale entrepreneurs and middlemen, whose business relations, cooperation, and activities can be situated in the grey zone between formality and informality (see also Fehlings in Chapter Seven).

8In the early 1990s, Tajikistan’s then political elite discovered Dubai as an exclusive tourist destination and simultaneously established a cargo business trading luxury cars. Later, small-scale traders and entrepreneurs discovered Dubai’s and Abu Dhabi’s markets for their businesses. They began to import luxury clothing, home decorations, fashionable fabrics and clothing, and mobile phones to Tajikistan. Such consumer goods became especially desirable because they were branded as dubaiskiy; i.e., made in or imported from Dubai and thus considered high-quality and prestigious lifestyle products. Others, like Firuz and his friend Rustam, started to import second-hand cars from the United Arab Emirates to Tajikistan. Increasing trade with Dubai goods also fuelled the travel aspirations of Tajikistan’s upper and middle-class and, thus, caused tourist companies to expand their travel destinations into the Gulf region. In the early 2000s, Tajikistan’s tourism sector experienced a Dubai boom, and many Tajikistani tourist companies started to maintain collaborations with Dubai-based Iranian tourist agencies. This trend accelerated when flydubai opened up a flight route to Tajikistan and enabled middle-class business travel, tourist trips and labour migrants’ mobility at affordable prices. Furthermore, in the last decade, Dubai’s famous city skyline has become a priority location for music video shoots among famous Tajik pop artists. These artists created links between Tajikistan’s pop music industry and Dubai’s spectacular image of post-Western modernity (Kathiravelu 2016), thereby contributing to the involvement of Tajikistan’s Muslims into a growing global Islamic consumerism and simultaneously feeding the lifestyle aspirations of the new urban middle class (Pink 2009).

9Dubai’s appealing radiance as the city of possibility is further enhanced by Tajikistan’s overall economic instability, the dominance of regimes of corruption, nepotism and arbitrariness, and the dearth of professional opportunities for well-educated and economically aspiring entrepreneurs. The specific combination of globally mediated economic opportunities in the Gulf and the political and economic constraints at home encouraged many Tajiks to establish or get involved in translocal businesses in the United Arab Emirates. Among them were well-educated young men such as the two middlemen Rustam and Dilshod who will be introduced later, and who left the country due to the lack of enticing employment opportunities. In the Arab Emirates, they were able to capitalize on their Russian, Persian, Arab, and English language skills, university degrees, travel experiences, and aura of urban sophistication and began successful economic careers as middlemen.

10In the last five years, many entrepreneurs suffering from adverse conditions in the non-state economy have been attracted to Dubai’s business-friendly environment. To run a successful business in Tajikistan, entrepreneurs must have informal ‘access’ (kanal), or ‘connections’ (svyazi, aloqa) to government officials. In recent years, these costly connections and the corruption linked to them, together with the overall economic crisis in the country, have caused difficulties for entrepreneurs struggling to cover their business expenses. In addition, the decline of migrants’ remittances due to the financial crisis in Russia3 critically affected Tajikistan’s economy. As a consequence, the government increased taxes and thus jeopardized small-and middle-scale entrepreneurial and business enterprises (Mullodjanov 2016). The informal economy is additionally hampered by constant surveillance practices through local authorities and elite groups who seek to monopolize the trading and bazaar business. Fires in the central bazaars of both Dushanbe and Kulob destroyed many vendors’ property. These vendors were mainly uninsured, making them ineligible for compensation for their lost property.4 It is important to note that the insurance system in Tajikistan is neither well-developed nor trusted. Many of the affected traders used bank loans to reopen their business. Banks in Tajikistan offer loans at extremely high interest rates5 and overburden borrowers with a lot of confusing bureaucratic paperwork. Eventually, many vendors transferred their business to the United Arab Emirates in order to pursue their economic interests without the pressure to get involved in corruption, the need to pay bribes, or the high risk of being targeted by the government’s arbitrary surveillance and regulation regime in the informal economy.6

11Furthermore, the integration of Tajiks into Dubai’s global trade and tourism business cannot be understood without considering the role of Russia and its changing migration policy, as well as the emergence of a new consumer-friendly and status-oriented urban middle class in Russia and the countries of Central Asia, such as Kazakhstan, that have been enjoying tourist trips to the Gulf since the early 2000s.

12In recent decades, migration from Tajikistan has significantly increased due to the country’s uncertain socio-economic situation. Of the total amount of Tajik migrants, about 90% go to Russia, while the rest migrate to Kazakhstan, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, South Korea and some overseas countries (ILO 2010). Due to Russia’s citizenship law, educated and highly qualified foreigners enjoy certain privileges, such as the right to acquire Russian citizenship after some years of work in Russia. Therefore, the emigration of Tajik intellectuals and entrepreneurs to Russia has significantly increased during the last ten years.7 However, due to growing Russian nationalism, many Tajiks, like other migrants from Central Asia and other foreigners, are increasingly facing racism in their everyday life in Russia (Habeck and Schröder 2016:10f, 12f).8 For example, many struggle with structural exploitation9 in the workplace (Ryazantsev 2016:5–6). Violent xenophobia in Russian society has diminished their overall wellbeing, and when the economic crisis hit Russia, many Tajiks left for the Emirates, while others were deported back to Tajikistan and later followed their more successful relatives to Dubai.

13Although Dubai is for many Tajiks an alternative migration destination to escape the precarious working and living conditions in Russia, in the Gulf they nevertheless retain links to Russia’s socio-economic development, as well as to the shared Soviet past (see Philipp Schröder in Chapter Eight). On the one hand, they profit from the influx of Russian middle-class tourists to Dubai’s tourism sector. On the other hand, many Tajiks who maintain and cultivate close relations with the Tajik migrant diaspora in Russia are able to expand their Dubai-based businesses into markets in Russia and wider Eurasia.

Fig. 2.1 ‘Mexa, shuba!’: fur-coat shops for Russian tourists in Dubai Deira. Photo © Manja Stephan-Emmrich (2013), CC BY 4.0

Al Nasr Square: Russian tourists, Iranian and Afghan business partners

  • 10 Cherkiz bazaar was one of the biggest international bazaars in Moscow, were many Tajiks, Uzbeks, Ky (...)

14The best way to meet Tajiks in Dubai is by walking around Al-Nasser Square, a public place nearby the Baniyas underground station in Dubai Deira. As a meeting place for both tourists and foreigners (Elsheshtawy 2008), Al Nasr Square forms the spatial centre of the Tajik Dubai business. Like other migrant workers from CIS countries, Tajiks jokingly refer to Al Nasr Square as mini Cherkiz bazaar.10

  • 11 Also known as Jamal Abd el-Nasr Square, close to the Dubai underground station Baniyas square.

15Deira, a vibrant urban district located in the heart of Dubai, offers plenty of shopping malls, market halls, hotels, and restaurants. Surrounding the Dubai Creek River with its city port, Deira is the main shopping district in Dubai’s historic quarter. Russian and other tourists have access to a wide variety of popular fashion shops, brands, and restaurants, as well as the offices of numerous trading, cargo and shipping companies. Additionally, there is an extensive selection of electronic, cosmetic, jewelry, and toy stores, and the majority of Dubai’s fur coat shops are located around Al Nasr Square.11

16Historically, the Deira district, located between the Creek side and Al Nasr Square, was the commercial centre of Dubai. However, when revenues from the oil industry and tourist sectors soared over the last two decades, Dubai expanded from a mere two square kilometers in 1950 to 1,000 square kilometers in 2015, moving the centre of the city to Sheikh Zayed Road and the Business Bay districts with their highrise commercial buildings. Nevertheless, Deira remains one of the main business centres, a popular destination for tourists, as well as a dwelling area for foreign migrant workers and residents from Asia and Africa who work in construction, hotels, the care sector or in one of the city’s many malls and street markets. Deira is therefore also known as Dubai’s ‘migrant quarter’.

  • 12 Due to the undocumented status of kamak, work statistical data or official numbers do not exist. Th (...)

17Due to the high density of hotels booked by tourists and businesspeople from Russia and other post-Soviet states in Eurasia, many Tajik workers, businesspeople, and entrepreneurs locate their offices, work, and living places around Al Nasr Square. Above all, the area is the workplace of about 300 to 500 kamak,12 street brokers who invite tourists from Russia and other CIS countries to visit the fur-coat shops they work for and later share the commission they get from the purchase. Tajik kamak, like those from other post-Soviet countries, have their own gathering points around Al Nasr Square, thereby following the spatial segregation of the local fur-coat business along ethnic and national lines. They wait in small groups in front of hotels, tourist shops, and restaurants, trying to find clients and offering them their shopping services. Like many other Tajiks in Dubai who work as vendors in souvenir, smartphone, or fur coat shops, as tourist guides or small-scale entrepreneurs and traders, they pursue their business interests in the grey zone between formality and informality. While only a minority of Tajiks, i.e., those working in shops or companies, have employment contracts that allow for long-term residence and family settlement in the United Arab Emirates, the majority are seasonal workers staying during the peak tourist season, from October until April. When the tourists leave, the workers return home to Tajikistan or Russia, where they wait until the new tourist season starts. Long-term residence is tied to an employment contract with a Dubai-based company, which requires connections (wasta) to informal networks around business elites and the Arab kafala system of sponsorship, which is the system by which foreign migration is managed and governed in the United Arab Emirates (see Gardner 2012, Vora 2009). Tajik kamak, while trying hard to become ‘connected’ to the business or social network around a kafeel (an Arab sponsor) through knowing the ‘right’ people and having the ‘right’ knowledge, work on the basis of tourist visas. The latter, however, allow for short-term residence but do not include a work permission. Tajiks are therefore often involved in illicit economic practices and street work activities.

18Tajiks are newcomers in Dubai’s economy. Nevertheless, many Tajiks successfully integrate into the emirate’s global tourist and trading business simply because they are able to capitalize on their close cultural ties with Iranian and Afghan traders, entrepreneurs, and businessmen. Cultivating relations to the established Afghan or Iranian diaspora in the emirate, Afghan traders and Iranian businessmen have an influential position in the transregional trading business in the UAE and simultaneously invest in the real estate sector and Dubai’s booming middle- and upper-class tourist sector (see Elshashtawy 2008, Parsa and Keivani 2002). For Tajiks, they are therefore potential doorkeepers to relations (wasta) around potential Arab sponsors (kafeel), and, as such, an important prerequisite to upgrade one’s one status as ‘foreign migrant worker’ through moving from the informal to the formal economy; i.e., to gain formal employment with a Dubai-based company.

19‘We trade with whom we trust’ is a core principle ruling not only the Tajik Dubai business. It first of all points to the importance of ethnicity- and kin-based business networks and the leading role family members play as ideal business partners because they ‘would never cheat you’. However, the cultural proximity of Iranians from Baluchistan and Dari-speaking Afghans turn them into ‘trusted familiars’ instead of ‘strangers’ (Osella and Osella 2012:128). Belonging to the Sunni-Hanafi branch of Islam and sharing their rootedness in Persian culture, literature, and history, Tajiks perceive Afghans, Baluch, and other Sunni Iranians as ‘brothers’ (barodar) and claim to belong to ‘one people’ (yak millat) and share one historic-cultural identity. It is therefore no surprise that Tajiks consider Sunni Iranians and Dari-speaking Afghans as ‘culturally closer’ (nazdik) than Turkish speaking Central Asians or Uzbeks from Tajikistan. Another important factor, however, is the Sunni-Shia divide. Although a common claim among Tajiks we met in Dubai was that they do business ‘with everyone as long as he is a Muslim’, our interlocutors simultaneously emphasized that they ‘would never share their accommodation with a Shiite!’ Strikingly, religious and cultural belonging has a great impact on how Tajiks adapt to the city, integrate into Dubai business sectors and articulate unity, sameness, and difference (see also Landa, 2013:3).

20We thus argue that Tajiks pursue their Dubai business projects in a flexible space of ‘cultural nestedness’. This allows for leaving the centre of one’s one ethnicity- and kin-based network, crossing over its natural boundaries. It also means involving oneself in the production of what Finke, in his study on the Kazakh minority in Mongolia, has called ‘institutional cosiness’; i.e., the institutional production of ideas about appropriatedness that include the longing for ‘a geographical and social environment with which one is familiar, knows the rules of the game, and feels at home’ (Finke 2003:178).

Figs. 2.2 and 2.3 Dubai Deira around Al Nasr Square: Commercial Center and ‘Meeting Place’. Photos © Manja Stephan-Emmrich (2013), CC BY 4.0

Migrant guesthouses as a ‘meeting place’

21The main places where the ‘cultural nestedness’ or ‘cosiness’ of Tajik networks in Dubai become spatialized are the temporary migrant accommodations situated in and around Al Nasr Square. By residing in a migrant guesthouse or in one of the low-budget hotels around Al Nasr Square, Tajiks adapt to Dubai’s urban everyday life, get involved into new economic sectors, and enlarge the scope of their businesses. Understanding migrants’ accommodations as a place of ‘entanglement, the meeting up of different histories many of them without previous connections to others’ (Massey 2006:46–71), we argue that migrant guesthouses serve as pivotal urban meeting place, where Tajiks engage in different forms of temporary conviviality, migrant solidarity, and the exchange of business knowledge across cultural, national, and other boundaries. Furthermore, the vibrant and cross-cultural living spaces of migrant accommodations challenge Tajiks’ capacity to deal with differences, to manoeuvre through different systems of meaning, and to utilize different cultural registers in order to be economically successful (Vertovec 2010). In a nutshell, Tajiks’ career as middlemen in the Dubai trade and tourism business sector usually starts in the migrant guesthouses where they reside.

22The area around Dubai Deira offers different categories of guesthouse. The low-budget, overcrowded, and poorly equipped guesthouses provide an affordable residence option for the majority of Tajik migrants working seasonally as kamak or vendors in tourist or smartphone shops. Job contracts and employment in a Dubai-based company allow for longer residency and enables Tajiks to eventually move to more expensive but better-equipped guesthouses, which offer more space and comfort. Only a minority of Tajiks manage, like Rustam, to buy an apartment in the neighboring emirates of Sharjah or Ajman, enabling them to bring their families in the United Arab Emirates and to reside in the country for longer periods. These economic actors stay closely connected with Tajikistan through regular visits or business trips home or by including family members in their translocal businesses.

  • 13 For reasons of legibility, we continue using ‘we’ here, although it should be noted that migrant gu (...)

23The four guesthouses we13 stayed in during our fieldwork are owned and managed by Afghans who rent three-or four-bedroom apartments in Deira’s residential areas situated near the main business sectors, to traders, middlemen, and businesspeople from Afghanistan, Iran, and Tajikistan. A guesthouse’s landlord is responsible for his tenants’ safety; he supervises the maintenance of the house rules, and he sometimes also stores and manages the migrants’ cash income. The guesthouses we stayed in were equipped with a separate safe where the tenants kept their documents and the money they earned. Afghan landlords in Deira also employ a cook (often an Afghan as well) who is responsible for lunch and dinner, operates as room cleaner, facility manager and sometimes stores the migrants’ earnings.

24The guestrooms we stayed in were always overcrowded. Six or seven people lived in each room and new guests often had to sleep on the floor. Although there was a constant flow of people, the Tajiks we met had their fixed place in a single guesthouse, where they would stay during every trip to Dubai, often with other Afghan or Baluch tenants whom they have known for many years. Following their own business during the daytime, all residents meet daily in the guesthouse for common lunches and dinners. Eating and relaxing together, this time off from work creates a social space for debating politics, economics, and religion, exchanging business knowledge about trading conditions, prices, contacts and visa regulations, and sharing their latest family stories and the joys and sorrows of mobile life. Eventually, many of the after-lunch or dinner conversations result in new business ideas and relationships, thereby creating new spaces for articulating and imagining a Muslim business community that traverses national, ethnic, and other boundaries (Stephan-Emmrich 2017).

25Tajiks’ preference for Afghan-owned guesthouses are overwhelmingly articulated in religious and cultural terms. However, as demonstrated by our own experiences gaining access to guesthouses where our Tajik interlocutors resided, besides cultural closeness, trust plays a pivotal role. Placing an emphasis on social contacts, who may serve as middlemen and thus gatekeepers to favorable guesthouses, as well as access to financial resources and personal qualities such as reliability and a good social reputation, Tajiks are involved in a system of ‘informal sponsorship’ and the ‘right connections’ that institutionalizes the overlap between living and doing business in Dubai. In order to get permission to stay in the guesthouse of one of our key Tajik interlocutors, we had to find someone who trusted us and accepted the responsibility of paying the monthly rent on our behalf in case we were not able to pay for ourselves.

  • 14 It should be mentioned here that the male co-author of this article worked for several years in the (...)

26Ideally, the ‘informal sponsor’ runs a sustainable business on the basis of long-term residency and a work contract with a Dubai-based company. Alternatively, gatekeepers to a guesthouse-based residency in Deira are often close ‘contacts’ (business partners or relatives) of the guesthouse landlord, or of the owners of the tourist or phone shops that Tajiks typically work for. Our eventual gatekeeper and informal sponsor was a Tajik who, working as consultant for Russian and Arab tourists in an Iranian supermarket for many years, has cultivated long-term connections in the mobile Afghan trading community and had the necessary links to the Afghan owner of the guesthouse.14

27Acting as middlemen in very different contexts, Tajiks in Dubai cross culturally varied spheres of living and working, and thus form networks among ‘trusted familiars’ who may even share their business profits and clients. This is exactly what Boissevain (1974:28) terms ‘linkages between persons in a network’, which ‘may be examined in terms of their structural diversity, the goods and services exchanged, the direction in which these move, and finally the frequency of interaction’. Linking ethnicity- and kin-based business networks in the Emirates with those of Afghan and Iranian co-tenants, Tajiks actively create opportunities for the pursuit of a successful career as middleman, agent, vendor, or sales consultant far from their Tajik homes or Russia’s precarious labour market regimes. Through their Afghan and Iranian business contacts, they enlarge the ‘institutional cosiness’ of their Tajik networks in Dubai and are thus able to move outside the restrictive social responsibilities and structures of their ethnicity- and kin-based networks. They are therefore able to take advantage of the economic freedom (ozody) Firuz pointed to earlier in his assessment of Dubai as a ‘good’ and business-friendly place.

28Simultaneously, participating in everyday life in migrants’ guesthouses, we gained insight into the hierarchies, dependencies, and constraints that Dubai’s trade and tourist economy create and that Tajiks have to cope with. On the one hand, in their position as newcomers to the Dubai business realm, Tajiks are dependent on their better established and connected Afghan and Iranian business partners or roommates. Tajiks therefore tend to accept, yet are subordinate to, the often-claimed cultural superiority, economic competence, and leadership of Iranian business partners and roommates. Due to the rather flexible notion of ‘Afghanness’, Afghans consider themselves as having been part of the Soviet Union (see Marsden 2015) and thus claim a shared Soviet experience with their Tajik partners, while Iranians see Tajiks as ‘little Soviet brothers’, who, due to their isolation from the wider Muslim community during the Soviet period, have a profound lack of cultural and religious knowledge. Tajiks become therefore frequent targets of an aggressive religious and cultural proselytization. For example: one of our main interlocutors, a young man who spent some years studying Islamic subjects in Riyadh, left the room, when in one of the numerous after-lunch discussions his Iranian roommate boasted of the cultural sophistication of the Iranian people and their crucial role in shaping Islamic civilization. He later explained: ‘Iranians always boost their culture. I don’t like it. […] I [also] don’t share [his roommate’s] religious conviction (Arab aqīda). What he says about women in Islam, for example, is not right. But he’s the best friend of my employer. So, I keep quiet, or leave the room’.

29Situating themselves in the social, cultural, and religious hierarchies of their business networks, Tajiks in Dubai face a wide range of limitations and constraints that they have to accept, cope with, and try to overcome. Therefore, as the following paragraphs illustrate, Tajiks successfully act as social mediators, economic middlemen, and cultural translators. In this regard, Iranian and Afghan business projects, enterprises, and companies obviously profit from their Tajik employees’ social contacts and their capacity to connect, recruit, and expand their trading businesses into new economic fields, as well as new markets in Central Asia, Eurasia, Europe, and the United States.

Tajik middlemen in the ‘Dubai business’: connecting, expanding, translating

30Working as kamak, shop vendors, or traders around Al Nasr Square, many Tajiks, including our respondents Firuz, Dilshod, and Rustam, additionally operate as economic middlemen (posrednik). Speaking the Russian language and being familiar with the habits of Russians and their culture they also share common cultural, linguistic, and religious traditions with Sunni-Hanafi Iranians and Afghans. Equipped with these cultural capacities, Tajiks serve as a bridge between Afghan and Iranian business activities and the Russian tourist market. They therefore often switch between undocumented and legal work. Moving in and across culturally and ethnically different local settings, Tajiks as middlemen are able to combine economic success with an assessment of wellbeing that is grounded in the experience of being independent from the political constraints and structural exploitation prevalent in Tajikistan and Russia. At the same time, their economic brokerage position empowers Tajiks to situationally bypass the social obligations and structural constraints institutionalized in their ethnicity- and kin-related network and thereby become creative and innovative economic agents.

Dilshod and the tourist business

31Dilshod has worked as a tour guide for an Iranian tourist company based in Dubai since 2011. Prior to moving to Dubai, he was employed as a sales consultant in an Afghani shop in Moscow’s Cherkiz bazaar. When the bazaar was closed in 2008, the Afghan shop owner recommended Dilshod to a business partner in Dubai. Due to Dilshod’s Russian, English, and Dari language proficiency and his university degree in economics, he was hired quickly to work in a phone shop at Al Nasr Square, where he worked as sales specialist for Russian-speaking customers. Capitalizing on the idea of a ‘shared Persian culture’, Dilshod successfully integrated into the Afghan business community in Dubai. He shared apartments with his Afghan colleagues and became the best seller in the phone shop. However, his career was also advanced by his piety and the depth and soundness of his religious knowledge. Praying five times a day and speaking excellent Dari, Dilshod easily conveys his fine character and priorities, which led to an excellent reputation within the Afghan business community in Dubai. While working for the Afghani phone shop, in the course of two years, Dilshod was able to invest in new business connections and managed to get a job offer from an Iranian tourist company. As a tour guide, he utilized his contacts with Russian and Russian-speaking tourists and was thus able to explore new business contacts in Almaty, Novosibirsk, Kazan, Moscow, and Dushanbe. Eventually, he helped his company to expand their tourist business into Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Eurasia. Due to his successful networking, Dilshod became a respected and trusted staff member, but simultaneously maintained his old connections to the Afghan business community. When we met him in winter 2013, he worked both as a tourist guide and as a sales consultant and had started to connect Russian clients interested in mobile phones with the Afghan phone shop he used to work for. As an economic broker, he also expanded his own business activities in different directions and also opened up new avenues for his Iranian tourist company into Dubai’s Russian tourist market. While the company used to focus merely on Iranian and Indian tourists, with the business Dilshod brought in, they were able to raise their profits during the tourist season by nearly fifteen percent.

32By connecting different trade and tourist sectors through his business ties, Dilshod simultaneously increased his own material and immaterial profits. Drawing on his connections with other Tajik middlemen in Dubai, Dilshod started to organize informal shopping tours for his clients to shopping malls and markets where his partners were employed, allowing them to benefit from this deal through commissions. Dilshod was also able to invest in the social ties that link him with his family at home: he brought his cousin from Tajikistan and managed to find a job for him in Dilshod’s former workplace, i.e., the Afghan phone shop.

Fig. 2.4 Loading cars and other commodities: Iranian companies and the car cargo shipment at Dubai Creek. Photo © Manja Stephan-Emmrich (2014), CC BY 4.0

Rustam and the UAE car market

33Rustam’s story shows that Tajiks are also active as middlemen in the United Arab Emirates’ booming new and second-hand car market, a business sector in which many Afghan traders and dealers and Iranian cargo companies invest and are active (Paterson 2005:16ff.). Profiting from the established free-trade zones, the United Arab Emirates’ car business stretches from the regions’ port cities via the Hormuz corridor to Iranian port cities such as Bandar Abbas, and from there further afield to markets in Europe, Asia, and the US (Ali and Keivani 2002). Due to their multiple middlemen competencies, Tajiks act as intermediaries between Iranian cargo companies and Afghan dealers in the Arab Emirates and clients, dealers, and sellers in Central Asia and other parts of Asia, Russia, the Caucasus, wider Europe, and the United States. As Rustam’s case study illustrates, the booming car trade facilitates successful entrepreneurial projects that allow Tajiks in Dubai to engage in translocal lifestyles and to pursue a livelihood based on living simultaneously ‘here’ and ‘there’, benefiting from both ethnicity- and kin-based business ties at home, in Russia, and in the United Arab Emirates. Building on trust and a good reputation, Tajik middlemen increase their social status both at home and in the business community in Dubai.

34Rustam is a middle-scale entrepreneur in the car cargo business, who shifted his business base from Dushanbe to Dubai in 2009. Before that, he undertook several business trips to the Gulf in order to establish ties with Afghan and Iranian entrepreneurs and to become involved with their business networks. When his efforts began to pay off, he moved to Dubai and opened a car showroom there and a small spare-parts shop in the neighboring emirate, Sharjah. He also bought a two-bedroom apartment in the Ajman emirate and eventually brought his family to the United Arab Emirates. Within five years, he was able to expand his business ties further to South Korea and the US and link them to his existing business networks in Tajikistan, Russia, and the Emirates. He currently imports new and used cars from the US and spare car parts from South Korea and ships them as cargo via Dubai Deira and Bandar Abbas to his business partners in Tajikistan, Russia, and elsewhere.

‘I have been involved in the car trade business since 1997. Until 2002, I brought Russian-made cars from Russian markets, mainly from Samara and Tolyatti, to Dushanbe. When the demand for Japanese cars increased in the Tajikistani market, we started to specialize in Japanese cars and invested in contacts in the UAE car market. In the beginning, we just exported cars from Dubai, and by 2009 I had done several shipments of new and used Japanese cars to Tajikistan. In 2009, we expanded our business through a good connection (kanal) to the USA and South Korea. For this purpose, I moved to Dubai and opened up a local office in order to manage the retransmission of cars and spare parts (via Dubai) to Tajikistan. Why Dubai? For example, if we send one container of car spare parts from South Korea to Tajikistan, we have to pay 15,000 USD, plus we have to up- and download the cargo several times and therefore sometimes loose goods. Besides, it takes a long time to deliver the commodities. If we transmit the same container via Dubai we don’t lose a lot of time for delivery and we are able to reduce our expenses by 35–40%’(Dubai, 2012).

35While Rustam has been very successful in expanding his transregional and crosscultural business networks into new markets in Russia, the CIS, Iran, and Afghanistan, he simultaneously ‘invests’ in the Tajik migrant community in Dubai. For example, he has good relations with Tajik kamak. Acting as ‘business marketers without payments’, kamak advertise Rustam’s goods among their own tourist clients. In return, they use Rustam as a bank, i.e., he stores and manages their cash earnings and sends cash to Tajikistan via his business contacts in Dushanbe. This is obviously a profitable deal for both sides, again built on trust: both sides avoid paperwork and save remittance fees, and Rustam can work with their money while it travels to Dushanbe. For example, he uses it in Dubai to purchase goods for his shop in Dushanbe while that amount is later replaced by the relatives working in Rustam’s shop in Dushanbe. Supporting kamak, Rustam at the same time accumulates social prestige in the Tajik community in Dubai, which he re-capitalizes into further business networks.

36Rustam’s car business also involves Tajik friends and relatives. Firuz, whom we introduced above, works as a middleman for Rustam. He systematically acquires new clients for Rustam’s car showroom and the spare-parts shop and gets a commission from their purchases. Rustam also employs family members. He organized a visa for his younger brother who is now managing his shop in Dubai, and he also transferred the responsibility for his spare-parts shop in Dushanbe to another brother. Thus, Rustam keeps close ties to his relatives and with their help has managed to maintain Dushanbe as second base for his cargo business. Like many other Tajiks, Rustam utilizes his relatives as a local channel to expand the repertoire of his Dubai export goods to include clothing, computer technology, and other prestigious lifestyle commodities advertised as dubaijsky, and thus enables these relatives to integrate into the global Dubai trade business ‘from home’.

37By moving in, as well as creating, culturally familiar spaces of economic activity, as economic middlemen Tajiks like Rustam or Dilshod can combine entrepreneurial activities with professional and educational careers (see also Pelican 2014:299). They thereby amass a kind of ‘freedom’ (ozody) and independence that forms an integral part of their self-understanding as ‘businessmen’ or ‘entrepreneurs’. This is in line with Pelican’s observation that the lack of flexibility and the structurally exploitative work and salary conditions in the United Arab Emirates has motivated Cameroonian migrants to switch from formal employment to the cargo business, or to combine formal employment with informal activities (Pelican 2014:280).

Challenges, changes, constraints

38While both Rustam and Dilshod have built successful careers as middlemen in the Dubai business community, we do not want to one-dimensionally celebrate the opportunities that result from Tajiks’ involvement in the Dubai business. The flexibility Tajik middlemen show while pursuing their entrepreneurial strategies and finding their niche in the vibrant Dubai business scene is subject to the precarious and uncertain conditions set by rapidly shifting global markets and changing (trans-)national migration regimes. Stressing the ‘translocal’ dimension of the Tajik Dubai business, in this chapter we explicitly want to point to the complex interplay of opportunities and limitations that shape the livelihoods of Tajik middlemen in the Dubai business community (Bromber 2013, Freitag and von Oppen 2010). In this context, migration studies have extensively discussed transnationalism and translocality as a lived reality shaped by the migrant’s multiple situatedness or connectedness in, or with, ‘here’ and ‘there’ (Smith 2011). This may lead eventually to the individual’s engagement in transnational lifestyles, or ‘habitus’ (Kelly and Lusis 2006). This gives Tajiks the opportunity to move flexibly in and across the United Arab Emirates and Tajikistan, to link family with business partners, and thereby enables them to ‘[try] to make the best of their stay in Dubai, while focusing on investments back home and expanding their business networks’ (Pelican 2014:294–95).

39Tajiks also respond directly to their precarious status in Dubai as ‘foreign migrants’. As mentioned above, this status is structurally promoted by the kafala sponsorship system and an immigration regime that excludes non-Emiratis from access to citizenship and defines all foreigners in relation to ‘labour’ only (Ahmad 2012). Tajiks are therefore only ‘temporary visitors’ in Dubai, whose long-term residence is tied up with access to formal employment (Vora 2009, Gardner 2012). Consequently, the Dubai business is a highly volatile field. After it was announced that Dubai will host the next World Expo in 2020, the police intensified their street raids around Al-Nasser Square to clear street workers (kamak) without a working licence from the area in order to make it more tourist-friendly. This action led to a rapid increase of deportations of Tajiks and other Central Asians in the winter of 2013–2014 and fuelled the fear of deportation for Tajiks working in Dubai. At the same time, the current economic crisis in Russia has led to a striking slump in the number of Russian tourists and thus forced many Tajiks working in the tourist sector to look for new job opportunities outside the Emirates.

40Struggling with these problems, Tajiks in Dubai simultaneously have to cope with a new wave of migrants from Tajikistan and Russia, who stimulate the ‘homegrown’ urban fear of ‘ruralization’ through the arrival of migrants from remote areas to the urban setting of Dubai. Due to the economic crisis in both Tajikistan and Russia, many unskilled and badly educated young men from rural areas try to become successful in running a business in Dubai. While some of the young men use their family connections, others utilize their social networks (odnoklasnik) and move directly from Russia to the Emirates. Still others come to Dubai after having been deported from Russia. Badly skilled, inexperienced, and without the necessary language proficiency, they face difficulties in gaining a foothold in the established Dubai business world and overwhelmingly become involved in undocumented street work as kamak. The Russian tourist sector, therefore, has become a highly competitive field. Many established middlemen complained to us about the youngsters’ crude and ill-mannered behavior, as these relative newcomers hang around in large groups in front of hotels and shops and lack the work ethic of the Tajik community that operates in Al Nasr Square. Thus, they fear that the newcomers could frighten away the tourists and jeopardize the good reputation Tajik middlemen have among Afghans and Iranians in the Emirates, or, as a concerned middleman working as kamak and tourist guide at Al Nasr Square has put it:

‘We Tajiks are everywhere! But everywhere our reputation (obrū) is very low (past). In Russia, they call us churky (wooden stump). Many of us come from rural areas. We are (a) poor (nation). Many (Tajiks) came to Dubai also in the hope to get respected […] as Muslims, because Dubai is an Islamic country. […] we worked hard to gain standing here. We are educated, have good manners (odob), we are urbanites (shahry). That’s why Afghans, Iranians, and even Arab migrants (migranty) show us respect. They trust us and do business with us. But now they (the newly arrived Tajik youngsters) come directly from the villages. They’ve never lived in a city, they aren’t educated, they speak with loud voices and shout, are dressed like farmers (dehqonho), and they violate our rules […]. They will destroy our businesses and tarnish our reputation’ (Dubai, 2013).

41As a consequence, many Tajik middlemen seek to leave the kamak business and instead increase their investment in Afghan or Iranian business connections. In this context, the perceived shame of Tajik identity is increasingly detrimental to Tajiks’ self-perception as economic middlemen in the Dubai business world and eventually led to a heightened identification as ‘Muslim’, rather than ‘Tajik’.

On translocality

42This chapter has explored the translocal livelihoods of well-educated, mobile Tajiks working in the United Arab Emirates ever since the Dubai boom that reached Tajikistan in the late 1990s and connected local markets and households with the global flows of wholesale and retail trade, as well with the thriving Gulf tourism industry. Tracing how our interlocutors operate as economic middlemen and mediators, this chapter has depicted the economic mobility of Dubai’s Tajiks between their ‘homes’ in Tajikistan, the migrant community in Russia, and various formal and informal business sectors in the Gulf. As the three selected ethnographic case studies have illustrated, Dubai is a key site of economic linkages spanning national and cultural boundaries, and it offers a wide range of work availabilities for Tajiks, particularly in the tourist and trading sectors. Pushed by Russia’s recent attempts to restrict residency status for Tajik and other Central Asian migrants who are not citizens of a member-state of the Eurasian Economic Union, Dubai has become an alternative destination for many skilled and unskilled Tajiks. As we have shown, Tajiks invest their cultural and social capital in multiple ways and they successfully integrate into various economic sectors. As they are familiar with the Russian language and culture, they connect Afghan and Iranian entrepreneurs with the booming Russian-speaking tourist market in the United Arab Emirates. Crossing cultural boundaries through their language proficiency, translocal business networks, and religious identity as Sunni-Hanafi Muslims, many Tajiks connect people, places, and markets at ‘home’ with those in the Middle East and Eurasia. In their brokerage position, they create as well as move in translocal spaces which can facilitate economic success, social mobility, and the amassing of wellbeing and belonging. This creates a setting in which Tajiks creatively and innovatively involve themselves in processes of globalization (see also Henry Alff in Chapter Five).

43However, local migration regimes such as the United Arab Emirates’ limited residency permits for ‘foreign migrant workers’, as well the fragile economic situation at ‘home’, push many Tajiks in Dubai into the status of undocumented workers facing uncertainty and vulnerability. We therefore argue that the livelihoods of Tajik middlemen in Dubai are characterized by complex processes of negotiation between multiple opportunities and constraints. Thus, translocality is a possibility, i.e., an urban setting that facilitates the pursuit of a livelihood outside the limitations created by economic, migration, and deportation systems. But the Dubai business is at the same time a highly volatile field that creates new, uncertain, and precarious working conditions for Tajik migrants. Translocality is therefore both produced and experienced by our Tajik interlocutors as a social reality that is formed by the creative and flexible combination of economic strategies, mobile experiences, and cultural competencies by which Tajiks in the Gulf try to ensure the sustainability and success of their mobile livelihoods shaped by incomplete post-Soviet nation-building projects and the precarious outcomes of the global economy.

44Conceptualizing ‘translocality’ as a research perspective also allows us to critically scrutinize hegemonic theories of migration and globalization. As a consequence, this chapter has put emphasis on how translocal connections and transfers between Central Asia, Russia, and the Gulf are socially constructed by non-elite and non-state actors, who in the academic literature are often one-dimensionally portrayed as peripheral actors moving in marginal urban spaces (see Smith 2011). Emphasizing their capacity to connect, mediate, and expand, we have explored how Tajiks in Dubai play a pivotal role in shaping the circulation and transfer of consumer goods, people, knowledge, and ideas. Obviously, Tajiks’ involvement in the global trading and tourist business is not a unidirectional transfer process from the Gulf to Tajikistan. The Tajik Dubai business covers multidirectional transfer processes, in which Tajik middlemen substantially contribute to the transcultural and transnational urbanism and cosmopolitanism of Dubai’s city spaces and business sectors. Hence translocality as a research perspective opens up new epistemological avenues into understanding globalization not merely by focusing on macro -or meso-level processes termed as ‘Gulfization’ or ‘Dubaization’ in the fields of the economy and urbanization (Wippel et al. 2014). With its focus on Tajik middlemen, this chapter has instead argued for a ‘social history’ of the Tajik Dubai business ‘from below’ (Freitag and von Oppen 2010:5) written from the perspective of actors who are not integral parts of the Gulf’s interregional economic and social past (Osella and Osella 2012, Vora 2013), but who, through their cultural and business ties, actively connect to it. Furthermore, by becoming involved in and expanding the Russian tourist business, Tajik middlemen become influential actors in shaping translocal relations in Dubai’s informal economy. This leads us to support Neha Vora’s critical response to dominant academic representation of the Gulf as ‘exclusively Middle Eastern’ (Vora 2013:3).

45Finally, we have argued that the Tajik Dubai business is ‘translocal’ because the economic activities Tajik middlemen are involved in are embedded, yet also ‘emplaced’ in a complex configuration of spatial relations between people, places, and markets in Central Asia, Eurasia, and the Gulf. These configurations also include Tajiks’ spatial experiences tied to these places. We thus associate being a middleman with the capacity, and the awareness of the capacity, to cope with uncertainty and volatility in geographic settings far from ‘home’. Showing a cultural competence, or ‘a built-up skill in manoeuvring more or less expertly with a particular system of meanings and meaningful forms’ (Hannerz 1990:239), Tajik middleman open up new economic paths into the vibrant Dubai business. In the process, they connect, mediate, transfer, and translate their academic and business knowledge into culturally and economically different local contexts.



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1 This chapter is the outcome of collaborative fieldwork in Dubai in winter 2012/13. Although both authors pursued their individual research projects within the framework of the overarching ‘Translocal Goods’ project, they share an interest in the religious dimension of the Tajik Dubai business, and the related translocal religio-economic transfers and interactions between Tajikistan and the Arab Emirates.

2 Although the Tajik Dubai business is not solely a male issue and also involves businesswomen, female traders and employees, this chapter presents male perspectives only. Accordingly, the term ‘middlemen’ refers to male actors.

3 The country depends heavily on remittance from migrants in Russia, which provides an equivalent of half of the country’s GDP (Malyuchenko 2015).

4 See,

5 In 2016, the bank rate was 29% to 32% for Somoni, and 22% to 35% for USD. See

6 See

7 For instance, Tajiks have been resettled in Russia’s Tambov Region within the Russian voluntary resettlement program – including twenty high-qualified medical doctors and their families (Pastrova 2014).

8 See,8599,1304096,00.html

9 See for instance the widespread practice of non-payment of salaries or residency in poor living conditions (Olimova 2013, p. 72).

10 Cherkiz bazaar was one of the biggest international bazaars in Moscow, were many Tajiks, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz and Azerbaijani migrants worked, until it was closed by the city administration in 2008.

11 Also known as Jamal Abd el-Nasr Square, close to the Dubai underground station Baniyas square.

12 Due to the undocumented status of kamak, work statistical data or official numbers do not exist. The number above reproduces our main Tajik interlocutors’ estimation of Tajik kamak working around Al Nasr Square in Dubai Deira between 1010 and 2014. Kamak is a Greek word referring commissioners, i.e. people who introduce potential customers to a specific business and in return receive a commission of 10–15% of the total sale from the owner. However, since the fur coat business in Dubai depends on Greeks, the term kamak only refers to commissioners working in the fur coat trade.

13 For reasons of legibility, we continue using ‘we’ here, although it should be noted that migrant guesthouses in Dubai Deira are male-dominated, ‘bachelor’ spaces. Consequently, only the male co-author of this chapter had permanent access to the guesthouses Tajiks dwell in, while the female co-author visited migrant guesthouses only when invited for common lunch or dinner. Otherwise she stayed in hotels nearby or lived with the families of long-term-resident Tajiks in their apartments in the emirate of Sharjah.

14 It should be mentioned here that the male co-author of this article worked for several years in the Dubai tourism business. Our access to Tajik migrant guesthouses therefore heavily relied on his previously-established business contacts with an Iranian supermarket in Dubai Deira.

Table des illustrations

Légende Fig. 2.1 ‘Mexa, shuba!’: fur-coat shops for Russian tourists in Dubai Deira. Photo © Manja Stephan-Emmrich (2013), CC BY 4.0
Fichier image/jpeg, 300k
Légende Figs. 2.2 and 2.3 Dubai Deira around Al Nasr Square: Commercial Center and ‘Meeting Place’. Photos © Manja Stephan-Emmrich (2013), CC BY 4.0
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Légende Fig. 2.4 Loading cars and other commodities: Iranian companies and the car cargo shipment at Dubai Creek. Photo © Manja Stephan-Emmrich (2014), CC BY 4.0
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Doctoral researcher in the Volkswagen-Foundation-funded research project ‘Translocal Goods’ from 2013 until 2016. Currently, he is a doctoral candidate at the Cluster of Excellence ‘Asia and Europe in a Global Context: The Dynamics of Transculturality’ at Universität Heidelberg (Germany). His research embraces the production, distribution and consumption of Islamic fashion in Tajikistan and the United Arab Emirates. He received his MSc from the Tajik National State University.

Junior Professor of Islam in Asian and African Societies at the Institute for Asian and African Studies at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Germany). In her current anthropological book project, she is investigating the complex entanglements of translocal Islamic education networks, Tajik youth’s work experiences, and reform-minded endeavours in Tajikistan, the Gulf, and the wider Middle East. She has published several articles and book chapters on Islamic lifestyles, youth and education, migration and mobility, and Muslim business networks in Dubai.


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