Being and Belonging in Kuwait

Expatriates, Stateless Peoples and the Politics of Citizenship

in Volume 10 (2015): Issue 2 (Dec 2015): Transnationalism and Transgenerationalism in the Middle East and Its Diasporas. Guest Editor: G. J. Breyley

In this article I examine why Kuwait and other migrant-receiving countries in the Persian Gulf have failed to enfranchise migrant workers and their descendants through citizenship. I contend that the increasing exclusion of expatriate workers from these societies can be understood in comparison with the disenfranchisement of the stateless populations to which these governments are host. I argue that nationalist narratives that portray these groups as threatening to the host societies have been extremely significant in creating an atmosphere of increasing isolation and exclusion for both expatriates and stateless peoples. I conclude by examining what the Kuwaiti case tells us about how notions of membership and belonging develop and the significant role of historic and political circumstances in shaping these notions.