Beyond dichotomies

A female Qatari’s negotiation of gender and professional identity


  • Afra Al-Khulaif Qatar University
  • Dorien Van De Mieroop KU Leuven



Middle Eastern workplace, gender identity, professional identity, intersectional identity, narrative analysis, research interview


Most research on gender in the Middle Eastern workplace treats gender identities in relation to the polarity of ‘tradition’ and ‘modernity’. Although some of these studies take a critical perspective, they largely ignore the importance of language, and therefore empirical work on this topic from a social constructionist perspective is largely lacking. This article presents the narratives related by a female Qatari professional during a research interview and the discursive positions she takes up vis-à-vis these ‘tradition-or-modernity’- oriented dominant discourses of gender-based difference. A qualitative, micro-oriented discourse analytical method highlights how ‘gender identity’ is made relevant in the negotiation of ‘professional identity’ and how culturally-governed expectations about femininity and professionalism surface – and are interactionally dealt with. The interviewee constructs a highly ephemeral identity at the intersection of gender and professional identity, presenting a much less polarised view on gender identity. This challenges essentialist notions of the gender-related tradition-modernity dichotomy found in the literature.

Author Biographies

Afra Al-Khulaif, Qatar University

Afra Hassan Al-Khulaifi is Teaching Assistant of Linguistics at Qatar University and a PhD researcher at KU Leuven, Belgium. Her research explores narratives as sites of professional identity struggles in the context of higher education reforms, devised to pursue socioeconomic and political change.

Dorien Van De Mieroop, KU Leuven

Dorien Van De Mieroop is Professor of Linguistics at KU Leuven, Belgium. Her main research interests lie in the discursive analysis of institutional interactions and of narratives, about which she has published more than 40 articles in international peer-reviewed journals and coauthored or coedited several books and special issues. She is coeditor of the journal Narrative Inquiry.


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How to Cite

Al-Khulaif, A., & Van De Mieroop, D. (2022). Beyond dichotomies: A female Qatari’s negotiation of gender and professional identity. Gender and Language, 16(2), 149–172.