Constancy and Change in Contemporary Kuwait City: The Socio-Cultural Dimensions of the Kuwait Courtyard and Diwaniyya, PhD Dissertation by Mohammed Al-Jassar, 2009

Al-Jassar, Mohammad. “Constancy and Change in Contemporary Kuwait City: The Socio-Cultural Dimensions of the Kuwait Courtyard and Diwaniyya.” Order No. 3363409, The University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, 2009. http://search.proquest.com/docview/305034561?accountid=15172.

Abstract (retrieved from ProQuest):

Unlike other Arabian Gulf cities that went through a modernization processes in the 1970s, Kuwait City, Kuwait, went through a drastic transformation in the early 1950s. The 1952 Master Plan drastically changed the urban fabric of Kuwait City. By the mid-1960s Kuwait City was already established as a modern town. In 1964 Saba George Shiber, an urban planner who worked closely with the Kuwaiti government in the redevelopment of Kuwait City, wrote: “The impact of revenue on the urban and social landscape has been meteoric, radical, ruthless. It all but obliterated–in one hectic decade–nearly all physical and social landmarks of the past.”

It has always been assumed that the main catalyst for change to the urban landscape in Kuwait City was the impact of oil revenue. While this is partially true, a closer examination of the socio-cultural dynamics of the first half of the 20th century in Kuwait reveals that a vibrant aspiration to change the status quo was already emerging early in the 20th century. Various dynamics played a role in the process of change. These included the ascendance to the throne, in February 1950, of Abdullah al-Salim, a visionary prince with strong social reform agenda, and the emergence of concepts such as al-nahda “the awakening”. This latter mainly manifested itself in what is referred to as al-nahda al-omraniyya, “built-environment awakening”.

A qualitative-interpretive research method is use to examine the various sociocultural dynamics that took place in the mid-20th century and their intertwined relationship with the changes that occurred to the traditional Kuwaiti built environment. This dissertation looks at these changes through the use of two micro lenses within the traditional home environment, the courtyard and the diwaniyya. The courtyard, a culturally rooted space in the traditional Kuwaiti house, was dominated by family and women’s activities, has totally disappeared from the urban fabric of Kuwait. In contrast, the diwaniyya, another culturally rooted space in the traditional Kuwaiti house but one dominated by nondomestic, male socio-cultural activities, has metamorphosed into a grander entity, one that displays status in the modern house. The various dynamics that facilitated the constancies and changes to these two rooms are also a reflection of the dynamics that played a role in the drastic changes that occurred in the Kuwaiti urban fabric in the 1950s.

Some content from the work, and the first page in the bibliography:


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