Making Care “Work” in Dubai: Mompreneurs between State, Market, and Mediated Spaces


Friday, April 5, 2019, 2:00pm to 3:30pm


Taubman 135, Center for Public Leadership’s Darman Seminar Room

May Al-Dabbagh, Assistant Professor of Social Research and Public Policy, New York University Abu Dhabi; former Founder and Director, Gender and Public Policy Program, Dubai School of Government; and former WAPPP Research Fellow

In this seminar, May Al-Dabbagh investigates how professional expatriate women, who move to Dubai, make home and work in the context of serial migration. May explores their career reinventions into “mompreneurs”: business owners whose main product or service is focused on motherhood or children.  Through a 3-year ethnographic investigation and 40 in-depth interviews, May analyzes how mompreneurs attempt to reimagine their mothering in market terms and how they describe the emotions involved in mothering and working in the city. She also explores the variation in managerial practices of “work” in these entrepreneurial ventures:  some business owners reproduce organizational cultures similar to their previous jobs while others cultivate cultures of resistance that reinforce the primacy of care as a work value for their employees. She argues that by establishing these businesses, these women attempt to find a work-around for the motherhood penalty: they craft a class-based career-mobility strategy that allows them to make certain types of care recognized as “work”. Finally, the strategies they take help us rethink ideas about how paid and unpaid labor are recognized, how family commodification features in the making of professional careers, and how family functions as a status marker in global cities.

This seminar is co-sponsored by the The Women and Public Policy Program and Middle East Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School.