Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Women -- Women in Kuwait: The Politics of Gender by Haya Al-Mughni

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Women -- Women in Kuwait: The Politics of Gender by Haya Al-Mughni

Article excerpt

Women in Kuwait: The Politics of Gender, by Haya al-Mughni. London: Saqi Books, 1993. 148 pages. Notes to p. 159. Bibl. to p. 166. Index to p. 174.

Reviewed by Jill Crystal

This very interesting book is one that anyone (and lately that seems to be just about everyone) interested in civil society should take a look at. A carefully researched analysis of four different voluntary organizations, the study looks at the historical development of these institutions, their social origins, and their relationship to current political issues and actors. The organizations happen to be women's groups, and the case happens to be Kuwait, but the issues raised are of much broader interest.

The work, which began as al-Mughni's doctoral dissertation at Exeter, is based on historical documents as well as on extensive interviews and less formal but extensive interactions with members and former members of these organizations. It is embedded in a larger analysis of the women's movement in Kuwait and the history of the emergence of voluntary associations there. The section on the institutionalization of voluntary associations, in general, contains new and interesting historical material. Al-Mughni focuses on four groups: the Women's Cultural and Social Society (WCSS), "Bayadir al-Salam" (Threshing Fields of Peace), the Islamic Care Society, and the Girls' Club, and looks tangentially at other voluntary associations as they emerged historically.

As al-Mughni examines the WCSS, she concludes that this group had essentially little organizational concern for women per se and was in some ways hostile, or at best indifferent, to women's issues. It was a women's group only because virtually all voluntary organizations in Kuwait are segregated by gender. In essence, the WCSS served the rather different function of preserving class (in this case, merchant class) cohesion. …

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