I thought I’d post a quick update on my recent trip back to the Middle East. I was here just before the holidays, and although I was just over here before the holidays, I returned just after the new year on a second trip.
In part, this trip provided me with an opportunity to check in with my research team’s progress on our large, three year project. As I’ve discussed before on this blog, as a team we’ve been able to design and deploy the first-ever large-scale survey of labor migrants in Qatar. We’re at the point now where we’re trying to disseminate our findings. In part, we have several academic papers that are now in the pipeline, but we’re also working hard to put these findings into a succinct format that will be usable by the ministries, courts, and other institutions of governance that shape the migrant experience in Qatar.
In addition to my work in Qatar, I was invited to fly up to the American University of Kuwait (AUK) for a series of presentations and lectures. Although I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the GCC states, this was actually my first trip ever to Kuwait, and I had a really wonderful time. My host and my old friend, Dr. Farah Al-Nakib, is a professor of history and the director of the Center for Gulf Studies at AUK. In addition to meeting many of the AUK faculty and some of the Fulbright students that are being hosted by AUK, I have a public lecture about our survey project in Qatar. That presentation, entitled A Portrait of Low-Income Migrants in Qatar, allowed me to share our project’s initial findings with an audience very familiar with migration in the region, and I benefitted greatly from their comments and discussions.
I also had the opportunity to deliver two lectures to students at AUK. The first, entitled Research Horizons for the Social Sciences in the GCC, convened a small group of students with an active interest in research, including both current students and also a few post-graduates. I also gave a presentation entitled Migrants, Urban Space, and Segregation in the Gulf City to a joint class, including the students in anthropology professor Pellegrino Luciano’s course Identity, Difference, and Deviance, and the students in Dr. Farah Al-Nakib’s course Arab Gulf Cities. The conversations and discussion following both lectures were invaluable to me, and I concluded my time at AUK very impressed with the students there.
Farah found the time to take me on a tour of city. Kuwait City is not only her home — it’s also the subject of her dissertation work at SOAS. Seeing the city through her eyes was an experience I won’t forget, and I suspect that many of her ideas will inform the book I’m going to attempt to write in the coming year. Finally, I also had the time to tour dissertation student Stanley John’s research sites in Kuwait. He’s exploring the experiences of the diasporic Christian communities in Kuwait, and he generously found the time to bring me into this social microcosm of the city.
The long plane ride home is still ahead of me, but this was a particularly good trip for me!