Allegiance performed: Wataniyyah poetry on the stage of the shāir al-milyūn competition

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This article examines the understudied political dynamics of the televised nabatī poetry competition Shāir al-Milyūn (“Million's Poet”) to offer a new understanding of the program. Media coverage has focused on the participation of a single female participant, while scholars have assessed Shāir al-Milyūn as primarily an experiment in the wedding of local tradition to modern technology, overlooking the central and complex negotiations of ruler-ruled relationships taking place on the show's stage. Shāir al-Milyūn's political aspect becomes particularly apparent in the regular performances of wataniyyah verse, i.e. poetry for the watan or homeland. Reading a wataniyyah poem performed during the fifth season of Shāir al-Milyūn by Emirati poet Ahmad bin Hayyāy al-Mansūrī, I argue that Shāir al-Milyūn, rather than merely celebrating local poetic tradition, operates as a political technology that provides both poetry contestants and the show's princely patron with opportunities to articulate and enact expectations of proper citizenship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-196
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Arabic Literature
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2019.


  • nabaṭī poetry; waṭaniyyah; United Arab Emirates; Shāʿir al-Milyūn; allegiance; competition; Aḥmad bin Hayyāy al-Manṣūrī; heritage discourse; nation-building; treason; Iṣlāḥ
  • Ahmad bin Hayyāy al-Mansūrī
  • Competition
  • Nation-building
  • Allegiance
  • Heritage discourse
  • Nabatī poetry
  • Treason
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Wataniyyah
  • Shāir al-Milyūn
  • Ihyā


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