[P3012] Forgotten Legacy: Palestinians in Kuwait

Created by Mai Al-Nakib
Tuesday, 11/20/12 8:30am


The word "legacy" signifies bequest or inheritance. Narrowly, "legacy" can refer to property or money willed by one relative to another; more broadly, it can indicate a set of traditions or experiences handed down to the present generation by predecessors. "Legacy" also refers to the effects of objects inherited or the consequences of traditions or experiences passed down. The concept of legacy cannot exist without memory. Family members are remembered in wills so that bequests may be left to them. Traditions and experiences are remembered by communities so that consequences of the past, whether fortuitous or traumatic, are marked. Based on the above understanding, it would seem that a forgotten legacy is no legacy at all.

However, as this interdisciplinary panel will demonstrate, the historical presence of Palestinians in Kuwait constitutes precisely what can be termed a forgotten legacy. Perhaps due to the fraught aftermath of the Iraqi invasion, the role of Palestinians in building the oil state from 1948 onwards is generally overlooked in contemporary Kuwait. During last year's celebration of Kuwait's 50/20 anniversaries, for example, the indispensable contributions of Palestinians to the development of Kuwait as a modern nation-state--as teachers, engineers, doctors, civil servants, scientists, technicians, and laborers--were nowhere commemorated. Lost on most citizens was the paradox that the very thing being celebrated was, in part, a legacy of this invisible Palestinian work.

In addition to the forgotten legacy of Palestinian work, the legacy of forgetting the Palestinians and their work is also ignored. This second outcome is an almost inevitable result of the first instance of forgetting. Young Kuwaiti citizens today, ignorant of the legacy of Palestinians in Kuwait, cannot gauge the outcome of this "realm of ignorance" (Judt, Politics of Retribution). As our panel will reveal, the legacy of forgetting the Palestinians is symptomatic of a wider cultural, political, economic, and social "amnesia" responsible for the restrictive one-dimensionality of the present in Kuwait (Huyssen, Twilight Memories). Tracing the legacy of Palestinians in the areas of education, culture, the built environment, and socio-political life as well as the legacy of forgetting these contributions can provide a more critically astute sense of the present than currently prevails in Kuwait. While this understanding will not likely transform the present or, for that matter, redeem the past, the act of "cultural recall" itself may help prepare the conditions for a more ethical and flexible future (Bal, Acts of Memory).


Association for Gulf & Arabian Peninsula Studies


Archit & Urb Plng; Educ; Hist; Lit; Pol Science