Biobanking and “Qatarization”
How are ethno-national identities authenticated? Today, some of the most authoritative imaginations of ethnic belonging are expressed in the powerful language of genetics. “It’s in our DNA” has become a popular idiom of our times. But the ways biology helps people understand their origins and the nature of belonging vary by nation. Nowhere is the battle for authentic belonging more fraught than in the ethno-nations of the Middle East. This chapter, based on ethnographic work in Qatar, describes the basic genetic research and cataloguing of ethnic populations. It tracks how biomedical research on ethnic populations relates to the political, economic, and historical context of the state and to the politics of inclusion in the context of biomedical research. It shows how biology is becoming a site for reaffirming identity, not simply in population genomics research, but also through the uneven distribution of healthcare. The chapter shows how the molecular realm is an emergent site for the imagination and authentication of ethno-national identities in contemporary Qatar. It is thus also a study of Middle Eastern ethno-nationalism through the lens of genetics and biobanking.