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Citizenship, Family Formation and State Building
This paper seeks to investigate how the institutions of marriage and family have evolved, shifted, and adapted over time with the expanded influence of the nation state on various communities across the Arabian Peninsula. Prior to the discovery of oil, people lived with extended family members or entire tribes. Losing the protection and support of one's tribe, up until the last century, meant being in jeopardy of losing your life. In the contemporary context, the nuclear family prevails in Gulf societies. Does this necessarily translate to shrinking influence of tribal ties and alliances? How has the state promoted this model of the nuclear Gulf family, and in what form(s)? What does it imply when the state allows its male citizens to pass on citizenship to their children, and not its female citizens? The state has a number of policies in place that produce specific forms and types of families, with male citizens' families legally recognized as a 'Gulf family' before the state, and female citizens' families (in cases where they marry non-Gulf men) considered to be foreign, and occupying a 'gray area' to borrow the term of a civil society group in Kuwait advocating for the rights of children of Kuwaiti mothers. Drawing on reports from the Doha Family Institute, the Family Affairs Council in Saudi Arabia, and the newly established Ministry of Women and Children in Kuwait, alongside primary sources from American and British missionaries in early twentieth century Arabia, as well as local media sources, this paper will lay out the stages of evolution and development of the Gulf family in reaction to modernity, state-building and citizenship decrees, and major political events such as the first Gulf War.
Geographic Area
Arabian Peninsula
Sub Area