Kuwaiti Women with Deportable Families: Marginality, Intimacy and Labor
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This paper examines the experiences of Kuwaiti women married to foreigners. We analyze the gendered definitions of citizenship via an intimacy transformation, and assess the ensuing denial or access to rights and resources associated with the stigma attached to the tenuous migrant status of spouses and children. We describe gender and citizenship in Kuwait in the context of national dependency and control of foreign labor. The marginality of Kuwaiti women married to foreigners resonates with the way migrant labor is exploited and disciplined. The data presented is based on ethnographic research conducted in Kuwait and based on a content analysis of in-depth interviews with eleven Kuwaiti women married to non-Kuwaitis. In addition we analyze thirty structured interviews with Kuwaiti men and women expressing their views on mixed citizenship marriages. We also incorporate data from law and media representations. We argue that the struggle over the meaning and control of intimacy leading to marriage leaves women and their families vulnerable to deportation but also shows how the state is vulnerable to its own biopolitics of citizenship. Kuwaiti women married to foreigners stand out as “dually unruly” because as citizens, they challenge the male biased way the state creates subjects, and by law, their spouses and children are categorized as part of the large migrant work force seen as temporary and contingent to the labor needs of country.