Research Portfolio Post #8: Qualitative Data Sources for Interpretivist Research

I am proposing to research citizenship and democracy because I would like to explain how it became possible that Kuwait  established a constitution and National Assembly in the 1950s and 1960s.[1] I am studying discourses about Kuwaiti citizenship and governance in the 1950s-1960s.[2] Within these discourses, we see representations of the ruler-subject relationship as one that is familial and honorable and representations of the Kuwaiti State as independent, Arab, Islamic, and democratic, revealing emergent and evolving meanings of democracy, “shura”, and governance.[3] I propose to study this in order to help my reader better understand Kuwaiti society and politics in the 1950s-1960s and the intersubjective meanings of citizenship and democracy.[4]

My two primary sources are as follows: one is a speech by the Emir Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah inaugurating the first constitutional convention meeting in 1962, cited and transcribed in the other, a comprehensive record of that meeting written by the elected members.[5] The speech represents the Emir as honorable, paternal, religious, and faithful in his people and “theirdemocratic project.[6] The Emir begins with the standard introductory religious phrase or the “basmallah”, mentions the recent independence of Kuwait from the British which he claims is a “new era for Kuwait which always knew since its inception only freedom and dignity”, and makes dua and prays for the members of the convention and the people of Kuwait.[7] He congratulates the people on their constitutional convention and progress toward democracy via enshrining the National Assembly or Majlis and explicitly labels it as their majlis.[8] He then lists a series of representations of the people and the Kuwaiti state as: Arab and a component of the Arab Ummah and Arab family (he describes other Arab states as “sisterly”), as independent, and as democratic.[9] This primary source describes the Emir’s representation of citizenship and democracy, as well as self-governance, as that explicitly belonging to the people. He ends by offering “paternal” advice to his “children”: to make sure that all decisions they reach are representative of the people and the product of consensus.[10] Of course, the discursive actor in this primary source is the Emir.

The other source, the record of the meeting by the elected officials, refers to the Emir using honorifics and notes applause after the conclusion of his address.[11] The source documents the members’ subsequent election via secret ballot to chairmanship and vice-chairmanship of the convention, and their expressions of gratitude to their peers for entrusting them with such duties.[12] Despite the Emir’s exit after his address, the members pledge to each other that they will execute their duties in collaboration with the Emir.[13] Interestingly, in doing so, they repeatedly affirm both their ideals of democratic self-governance and their duties to establish a constitutional monarchy and free legislature – they do not reconcile constitutional monarchy and democracy as much as they almost conflate the two.[14] To the members, many of whom are merchant class (though not exclusively), the representations of Kuwaiti citizenship and governance aligned with the ones espoused above: democratic, religious, Arab, familial, honorable, and importantly cooperative.[15] Though the initial source exposes the aforementioned representations of the Emir, the people, and the State of Kuwait, the presence of these representations in this source suggests their reproduction by the officials and merchants.

These common themes appear to be intertextual and indicate that there are intersubjective meanings to be examined. It is of vital importance to also recognize that these discourses on democracy and citizenship do not exist in a vacuum. Rather they are “mediated by… other dominant discourses… to produce potent new ways of conceptualizing” democracy and citizenship in 1950s-1960s Kuwait, converging with discourses on Islam, independence, and Pan-Arabism.[16] When considering the interaction between these discourses, one can understand how the Emir was understood to be a paternal figure, the people of Kuwait an immediate family comprising a branch of the Arab and Muslim Ummah, and the Kuwaiti State to be independent, free, democratic, and constitutionally monarchic all at the same time. Thus, only by contextualizing these sources in their milieu can we appreciate the development of the intersubjective meanings of Kuwaiti citizenship and democracy in the 1950-60s.

In my research, I will go beyond these two primary sources by referring to canonical texts from the Quran and Sunna that (partially) inform these understandings through the concept of shura, as well as other sources that illustrate the salience of Pan-Arab and independence ideologies that appeared in the mentioned representations. Significantly, I will try to map for exposure in order to locate texts that may demonstrate contestations of the discourse.[17] While I observe that the actors in the two primary sources include the Emir, appointed ministers, elected convention members, and the merchant class, crucially absent are women and non-merchant classes which comprise the rapidly growing middle-class in the 1950s-1960s. As such, I have to be cognizant about exposure to locate counter-discourses and instances of discursive resistance.[18]

[1] Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, Joseph Bizup, and William T. Fitzgerald, The Craft of Research (4thed.), Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. p. 49.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Kuwait, “Mahathir Al-Majlis Al-Taiseesy: Almahthar Al-Awal” Kuwait National Assembly Records. January, 20 1962. p. 2, 3. http://www.kna.kw/chapter1_meetings/001.pdf. (Accessed November 6, 2019).

Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, Constitutional Convention Inaugural Address, in Kuwait, “Mahathir Al-Majlis Al-Taiseesy: Almahthar Al-Awal” Kuwait National Assembly Records. January 20, 1962. p. 2. http://www.kna.kw/chapter1_meetings/001.pdf. (Accessed November 6, 2019).

[6] Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, Constitutional Convention Inaugural Address, in Kuwait, “Mahathir Al-Majlis Al-Taiseesy: Almahthar Al-Awal” Kuwait National Assembly Records. January 20, 1962. p. 2. http://www.kna.kw/chapter1_meetings/001.pdf. (Accessed November 6, 2019).

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Kuwait, “Mahathir Al-Majlis Al-Taiseesy: Almahthar Al-Awal” Kuwait National Assembly Records. January, 20 1962. p. 2, 3. http://www.kna.kw/chapter1_meetings/001.pdf. (Accessed November 6, 2019).

[12] Ibid, 4.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid 2, 3, 4. 5.

[16] Jean Carabine, Unmarried Motherhood 1830-1990: A Genealogical Analysis, in Discourse as Data: A Guide to Analysis, ed. Margaret Wetherell, Stephanie Taylor, Simeon J. Yates, London: Sage, 2011. p. 269. (Accessed: November 7, 2019).

[17] Peregrine Schwartz-Shea and Dvora Yanow, Interpretive Research Design: Concepts and Processes, New York: Routledge, 2012. p. 88, (Accessed November 7, 2019).

[18] Ibid, 89.

Bibliography

Al-Salem Al-Sabah, Abdullah, Constitutional Convention Inaugural Address, in Kuwait, “Mahathir Al-Majlis Al-Taiseesy: Almahthar Al-Awal” Kuwait National Assembly Records. January 20, 1962. p. 2. http://www.kna.kw/chapter1_meetings/001.pdf. (Accessed November 6, 2019).

Carabine, Jean, Unmarried Motherhood 1830-1990: A Genealogical Analysis, in Discourse as Data: A Guide to Analysis, ed. Margaret Wetherell, Stephanie Taylor, Simeon J. Yates, London: Sage, 2011. p. 269. (Accessed: November 7, 2019).

Booth, Wayne, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, Joseph Bizup, and William T. Fitzgerald, The Craft of Research (4thed.), Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. p. 49.

Kuwait, “Mahathir Al-Majlis Al-Taiseesy: Almahthar Al-Awal” Kuwait National Assembly Records, January, 20 1962. p. 2, 3. http://www.kna.kw/chapter1_meetings/001.pdf. (Accessed November 6, 2019).

Schwartz-Shea Peregine, Dvora Yanow, Interpretive Research Design: Concepts and Processes, New York: Routledge, 2012. p. 88. (Accessed November 7, 2019).

2 thoughts to “Research Portfolio Post #8: Qualitative Data Sources for Interpretivist Research”

  1. Mohammad,

    You have clearly done very thorough research into the different discourses in regards to the formation of Kuwaiti self-identity and formation of their National Assembly. Entering the Quran as a means of discourse I think would be productive as well. I wonder, if you are using the Quran, which is clearly a document cited outside of Kuwait, would certain Pan-Arabic documents that are also likely cited regularly be useful? You do mention that there are discourses in this area- my question is would these documents be an individual discourse (e.g. a blueprint for Arab state formation), or would it be a guide for multiple likely discourses within the Kuwaiti political realm? I suppose that is up to you deciding whether or not to use the Arabic 1960s consensus for state building (if there is one), versus including other opinions that may have not been reflected in material history.

  2. Mohammad — overall you do an excellent job of discussing relevant sources (and the meanings and representations that you are starting to identify in them for an interpretivist project. As you think about the overall problem statement and the formulation of your question for this methodology, remember that the “how possible…?” formulation (from Dunn and Neumann) should point to an object of inquiry about which certain intersubjective meanings are being constructed and/or contested. In asking “how it became possible that Kuwait established a constitution and National Assembly in the 1950s and 1960s” you point to an event rather than to an issue or topic is given meaning. In this methodology, the establishment of a constitution and an assembly would be seen as the institutionalization of certain discourses/meanings (just as the 1830s Poor Laws institutionalized certain intersubjective meanings about lone mothers as immoral and greedy). What are the meanings and representations that you are proposing to explain in your project? Make sure that those are the focus of the “how possible…?” question.

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