Middle East Studies

Oona Cahill | MES Undergraduate Fellowship funds London, UK, summer research

With funding from the Middle East Studies Undergraduate Fellowship, I was able to travel to London this summer to conduct archival research for my honors thesis. My thesis focuses on the political and social forces that influenced the exclusivity of Kuwait’s 1959 nationality law. This law deprived tens of thousands of native Kuwaitis of citizenship; these people, known as the bedoon, are still suffering the consequences of this decision. I chose this topic out of a deep interest in both the historical moment and its persistent relevance to present day debates about citizenship, identity, and who defines who does or does not belong in a nation-state.

The archival research I conducted this summer, both at the National Archives in Kew and the India Office Records of the British Library, helped me define the scope of my thesis in subject and scale. I discovered correspondences between different British offices in the Middle East and London that illuminated British concern about and pushback against the pan-Arabism that accompanied an influx of Arab migrant workers into Kuwait during the 1940’s and 50’s. The correspondences also pointed to efforts by some wealthier Kuwaitis to restrict nationality to protect their economic and social advantages.

Throughout this upcoming year, the information I discovered in the archives will form the basis of my thesis. I am a dual History and MES concentrator, so working in the archives was a great way to develop a new skill and combine two disciplines about which I am passionate. I am grateful to Middle East Studies for giving me the opportunity!