Lindsey Stephenson, a current MA student in Muslim Cultures, has recently published an article in the Journal of Arabian Studies. “Women and the Malleability of the Kuwaiti Diwaniyya” is an extension of a paper Stephenson presented at the annual Gulf Studies Conference at Exeter in July 2011, and a product of ongoing field research begun during her Fulbright fellowship to Kuwait in 2007-2008.
Stephenson will graduate from AKU-ISMC this year and will begin a PhD programme in the Near Eastern Studies Department at Princeton University in October 2012.
Abstract: The diwaniyya is the Kuwaiti man’s realm. It is where he does business, discusses politics and spends leisure time with his friends. It is also his escape. Men devote so much time to these traditional gatherings that Kuwaiti wives jokingly refer to them as the “sharika”, or second wife. Because of the support that diwaniyyas traditionally provide to elections, women’s suffrage in Kuwait has challenged the once essential ‘masculinity’ of this institution. In the past decade it has been necessary for the diwaniyya to include women in order to remain politically and socially relevant. And like any good ‘traditional’ fixture of society, it has accommodated to remain relevant. This article emphasizes how the malleability of this institution, both in terms of its roles in the public and private spheres, as well as its structure and membership, is what enables the diwaniyya to serve as a gateway for Kuwaiti women to a new way of operating within society and as a forum for expanding and strengthening their non kin-based networks.
Mr Sohail Merchant