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In Arabic this phrase means, "God-willing," "if God wills," or "as God wills." Even when conversing in English, Kuwaitis commonly employ it as an appendage to a sentence, as in "Iíll get an ĎAí on my paper, Inshallah," "weíll win the basketball game, Inshallah," or "the oil will never run out, Inshallah."
At first, it appears that these utterances all fall into a particular category, events involving circumstances beyond the control of the person speaking. Hence, a Kuwaiti might say: "Itíll be windy tomorrow, Inshallah." The speaker cannot, of course, control the winds.
The phrase, however, also occurs in situations in which the speaker has a degree of control: for example, if a student says: "Iíll come to class on time tomorrow, Inshallah." Clearly, the student has a fair amount of influence over what happens. He can get up earlier, refuel his car, and even not leave the classroom building at all in order to guarantee his arrival on time. Still, the utterance of "Inshallah" here pertains to a situation at least partly a product of chance.
Finally "Inshallah" occurs in situations wholly under the control of the speaker. If a person says, "Iím going to tell the truth," then it would appear that nothing could stop him or her other than a change of plan. Still, a Kuwaiti might well say that sentence as "Iíll tell the truth in court tomorrow, Inshallah."
It bears mention here that Arabic, like many languages, does not differentiate between the future tense and the conditional (Wise, 2001). Hence, unlike English, one cannot make the distinction between these two sentences: "I will go to work" and "I would go to work...." Kuwaiti students learning English often have difficulty grasping the concept that someone can actually express certainty that a future event will happen. In Arabic any utterance about future action linguistically implies an element of uncertainty and, as explained below, Divine permission. The fact remains, however, that even when correctly putting an English sentence into the future tense, Kuwaitis often add "Inshallah," to retain the original sense of uncertainty.
The phrase "Inshallah," however, says something more than displaying an element of chance. It contains a religious element, "God willing," as befits a culture which takes Islam seriously (Ghabra, 1997; Sapsted, 1980). Kuwaitis see Godís hand at work in the material world. The use of "Inshallah" even in sentences in which the speaker holds total control over the action shows that every action results from the Divine Will.
Further, the use of "Inshallah" suggests that no matter how apparently permanent the conditions or actions at this moment, one cannot predict or plan for the future with certainty. If "Inshallah," you become rich today, "Inshallah," you might lose it all tomorrow, according to Godís plan. The Kuwaiti use of the phrase suggests that even the sun rising and gravity working depend on Godís will and might not happen tomorrow.
While this may seem quite pessimistic, Kuwaitis, in fact, tend to view life very optimistically. Enjoy the good times and do not fear the bad because, Inshallah, they will not last forever, and Providence lies not in your hands. In this way, men and women never bear complete responsibility for their own actions or their future because God has a plan.
To describe Kuwaiti society, then, this author coined the phrase, "the Inshallah society." With this, he means to capture the sense of Divinely granted carpe diem, Latin for "seize the day," that animates Kuwaiti society and, especially, one particular class, the rich merchants, the Asil, or "heritage" Kuwaitis.
Members of this class enjoyed a fairly comfortable existence before the discovery of oil. Oil wealth, and their abilities to exploits the opportunities offered by the discovery of oil, made them rich, and they live a life only enjoyed by a small few on our planet: vacations in Paris; expensive cars; maids and chauffeurs; and private school tuitions.
Yet all of this remains precarious. The Iraqi invasion showed the rest of the world Kuwaitís external weakness. Three bigger, stronger, and poorer countries surround Kuwait: Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. Each of these fought Kuwait in the past and, on a cultural level, each threatens Kuwaitís independence since each differs from Kuwait in significant respects.
Within Kuwait, the Asil, the old merchant class, face an entirely different kind of threat, one of cultural dilution, economic extinction, and political marginalization. Over half of the countryís population consists of foreign workers, bringing with them values and traditions alien to those of the Asil. These include British and Americans, Indians, and foreign Arabs including, most significantly, the Palestinians. Even within their own homes, foreign maids often spend more time with Asil children than do their own mothers. Further, the rising number of Bedouin "Kuwaitis" seems poised to make the Kuwaiti Parliament pass laws based on conservative tribal beliefs almost as alien to the Asil as those of the foreigners (Ghabra, 1997; Ghabra, 1997 II). Meanwhile, the Asilís place in the economy remains under potential threat.
Still, today remains good, and, Inshallah, tomorrow will take care of itself.
This feeling lies at the very heart of the Asil mentality; indeed, one can trace that same sense back to the days of the pearl-boats when the Asil had far less. Inshallah, one lives, and Inshallah, one dies. One might describe this as a kind of optimistic fatalism.
This author had an unique opportunity during the last five years to live with and to study the "Inshallah society." This came through his employment in a particularly interesting environment, a school explicitly created to straddle the cultural divide between the world of Kuwait and that of the West, Al-Dharra Madressor (ADM), a private Kuwait bilingual school that features a staff evenly split between Arabic and English-speakers and using a curriculum approved by both the Kuwait Ministry of Education and the North Central College Association.
Because of the composition of the school and the staff, the two, and, sometimes, three cultures, as explained below, meet and interact on a daily basis. A good deal of this interaction merits no scholarly interest for a simple reason: the cultures fundamentally agree. For example, in an Arabic language algebra class and one in English, one would find the same answers to the same problems, even if, ironically, the Arabic class uses different, "non-Arabic," numerals to express the answers. This continued daily student interaction with Arab and Western cultures brings about the entire question as to what extent these two cultures accommodate and clash with one another and the effect of this interaction on the students.
This study proposes that every school possesses its own culture. This culture forms through the interplay between the culture of the world outside the school and the particular, distinct culture of the school itself.
As school culture literature implies, a school constitutes a world of its own. The school promulgates its rules, both formal and informal, and its own ethos. Much scholarly work considers this subject, using the terms "school culture" or "school climate." This study prefers the former term as it implies a more over-arching and important influence than the latter.
If, indeed, a school possesses a distinctive, definable culture, or "distinctive character" as Charles Glenn (Glenn, 1996) describes it, a number of questions arise. The most obvious is probably: is that climate good for learning? Again, a vast literature (Dixon, 1990; Hoy, 1992; Kelley, 1991) describes various ways in which that culture may improve to become more friendly as well as more instructionally productive. Johnson's (1981; 1987) work explains the Kettering climate survey, a generally accepted instrument to measure this school culture.
Another question, more to the point here, considers the origin and definition of the school culture: Where does the school culture come from? This study argues that school culture results from a complex interplay between the culture of society outside and that of the school inside. Hence, society's culture relates to school culture.
Obviously, such a hypothesis suggests several possible alternatives. First, the culture of the school could heavily reflect that of the surrounding society. In such a case, one could find many points of commonalty between the two. Study of the school, then, becomes simply another manner of studying the culture of the society. Japanese schools, for example, explicitly teach Japanese values and traditions that find their full expression in Japanese society. Hence, society's culture in this instance probably creates school culture.
Second, the culture of the school could profoundly differ from that of the society outside. In certain cases, the school may even purposefully attempt to offer a contrasting environment from that students experience outside the school walls. American schools in poor, gang-ridden neighborhoods, for example, typically attempt to offer students the safety, stability, and achievement that conditions outside would otherwise deny them. In such a case, then, a study of culture of the school would reveal conditions of cultural clash. Therefore, society's culture clashes with the school culture.
Third, the two foregoing scenarios assume that the culture of the school and that of the society exist as monolithic wholes when, in fact, the school and society may themselves hold a variety of cultures, values, or other social phenomena that may clash or conform. One segment of a school, then, might find its environment profoundly different from that of the school while another may feel no such discontinuity. This describes, for example, the case of poor African-American students bussed to a rich, suburban, white school. In this case, white suburban culture creates school culture that contrasts with poor black students' culture. Many variations, of course, exist of this third possibility, depending on the number of cultures and the relative strength of each.
Finally, though, the school may contain two cultures in relatively even balance in the sense that students, and the school, perhaps merit the term "bicultural." Students in such a school may adhere to one culture in one situation and another in other situations.
International schools, in general, tend to offer ample opportunities to study the last three possibilities. These schools typically house students from multiple national backgrounds who come together in a school environment that conforms to British or American school norms (Broman, 1996; Brown, 1996). While faculties may come from a variety of places, the hiring bias usually tends towards the nationality whose curriculum defines the school, usually either British or American. Beyond this, most international schools contain at least some percentage of host-country nationals who attend either to learn intensive English or to obtain the prestige of a private school education.
In most international schools, then, one can conceive of three possible situations: cultural clash, assimilation, or accommodation. First, students whose parents merely reside in the country may or may not hold the same cultural values as those of the English or American dominant group. Typically, though, in such cases, their very diversity lessens their influence. Second, host country nationals, despite their apparent "buying into" the values of the school via enrollment, may find themselves at odds with the foreigner-dominated school environment. In both instances, then, study of an international school may yield insights into how to deal with cultural clash in the multi-cultural United States. Concretely, this scenario supposes a diversity of national backgrounds weakly affects school culture and clashes with host country culture.
The case of Al-Dharra Madressor, however, represents something somewhat different, a school seemingly designed to make students able to function well in one culture and at least reasonably well in a second. Thus students will emerge with cultural proficiency, defined below, in this second culture.
Specifically, Al-Dharra Madressor (ADM) endeavors, while not taking away studentsí primary Arab, Kuwaiti cultural identity, to make them proficient in American, Western culture so that they can speak English, perform at Western universities, deal with Westerners in business situations, live in America for extended periods, and generally interact well enough with Westerners that an outsider might temporarily mistake an ADM graduate for a Westerner. For a small number of students, generally from households with an American mother and a very Westernized home life, ADM operates in the opposite manner in that it builds up a secondary Arab Kuwaiti cultural proficiency to supplement a primary American cultural identity. In either case, though, graduates should emerge with at least a proficiency in both Arab and Western culture.
To make the parameters of this dissertation clear requires defining several key and often-used terms. The choice of the term "cultural proficiency" purposely echoes that of language proficiency. A language "proficient" student may not obtain the same speaking or comprehension level as a native speaker but generally can read and express himself in his second language. Similarly, a student with a cultural proficiency can function reasonably well in a second culture. A person with particularly high second language skills may so readily switch between languages that he or she merits the term "bilingual;" a person well beyond proficient in two cultures merits the term "bicultural." Various measures attempt to define a standard for biculturality (Arnold, Cuellar, & Maldonado, 1995; Cuellar, Harris, & Jasso, 1980), and this dissertation will use lower level of some of the same measures to measure the concept of cultural proficiency.
At times, this analysis must also discuss relative levels of cultural adjustment or orientation. In these instances, the study will apply terms such as "cultural adherence," "cultural familiarity," "cultural orientation," "cultural affinity," not the term "cultural proficiency." In the literature scholars often use these other terms to imply varying constructs of cultural identity. These terms, here, will only refer to differing amounts of the same qualities that constitute "cultural proficiency" or, at a higher level, "biculturality." Thus a personís "cultural affinity," in this terminology, can increase, but not cultural proficiency. This dissertation will define a "culturally proficient" person as follows.
Culturally proficient: able to behave within accepted cultural norms, capable of completing business and educational transactions with members of this culture, and expressing a degree of comfort and familiarity with the norms and thought patterns of this culture.
This definition makes some extremely important qualifications. First, it refers to observable behaviors, not thought patterns or emotional states, and constitutes an operational definition, though these behaviors may, of course, suggest thoughts, emotions, and identity. This serves to limit the claims offered here as to the ability of the instruments or analysis to explain cultural identity. Thus becoming "more American" in this study means acting more American, which can only imply deeper, internal change. Further, the use of the term "cultural proficiency" means that any time this dissertation refers to some person as "culturally proficient" this requires producing not only some means of measurement but also some standard for inclusion into this category.
Al-Dharra provides a particularly interesting departure from that of the typical international school in its somewhat more explicit attempts to create a secondary cultural proficiency while working to maintain the primary one. This point becomes evident from reading the school's pamphlets provided to parents (ADM 2, 1998):
Al-Dharra Madressor was founded in 1977 to provided quality education to students in the Arab World. The school offers a bilingual education in which both languages carry equal emphasis and status. Al-Dharra stresses Arab culture, traditions, heritage and identity, while preparing its graduates for university placement throughout the world. (emphasis added)
Unlike many international schools, ADM's population stems almost exclusively (88%) from that of the host country, Kuwait (ECIS: Al-Dharra Madressor, 2001). At other international schools, the diversity of backgrounds of the various international students (Broman, 1996) often works to strengthen the importance of the school's culture since it weakens the cultural homogeneity of the student body. At ADM, only one cultural group really matters, Kuwaiti, and, as this study will show, a specific sub-class of Kuwaiti, the Asil, the "heritage" or "traditional" Kuwaitis.
At first glance, this situation should not sound too different from the many immigrant-filled American schools in which the school effectively functions to socialize the newcomers to become "American." At Al-Dharra Madressor, though, the school explicitly tries to maintain an Arab cultural identity while encouraging students to acquire other qualities that basically amount to a Western cultural proficiency. As the school's website states (ADM 1, 1998):
Al-Dharra Madressor (ADM), established 1977, is an independent, non-profit, bilingual (Arabic-English) university preparatory educational institution whose aim is to help young Kuwait men and women as well as students of other nationalities living in Kuwait, to acquire the ethical values, intellectual qualities, and positive attitudes required for effective participation in the overall development of Kuwait and the rapidly changing world. (emphasis added)
The previous statements, and various other school documents (ADM 1, 1998; ADM 2, 1998) specifically emphasize not only Arab culture, but also the need for the school process to prepare students to attend any universities, i.e., those in the West as well as the Arab world. For example, ADM 2 (1998) states that Al-Dharra prepares its graduates for university placement "throughout the world." The list of schools to which Dharra sends students, in fact, indicates an apparent tilt towards American universities (ADM 1, 1998):
After the re-establishment of our school after the Gulf War our graduates have been accepted to the following: Carnegie Mellon, Tufts, University of Colorado-Boulder, MIT, Royal College of Surgeons Ireland, Boston College, Boston University, Suffolk University, Simmons College, Virginia Polytechnic, Rhode Island School of Design, Babson College, Florida Tech, Cornell, Syracuse, Miami, Vermont, Rhode Island, Kuwait University, Northeastern, Emerson College, Drake, American, American University of Beirut, Marquette, Penn, Penn State, Lebanese American University, Cairo University, Toronto, Cal-Berkeley, UCLA, University of California- San Diego, Chicago, Arizona State University, Washington State, and McGill.
Though this list appears heavily weighted towards the United States, the percentage going to the American University of Beirut, Lebanese American University, Cairo University, and Kuwait University, as a group, about equals that going to American universities, with a still smaller percentage attending British universities. While graduating classes differ in ultimate destinations, conversations with students and high school counselors show that a typical class includes:
Figure 1.1: Typical ADM University Placement 40% at American universities 40% at Arab universities 15% at British universities 5% other universities
As a point of identification with the American schools, Al-Dharra helped start PEAK (Professional Educators Association of Kuwait), an event organized by American school directors. The current director of the school several times flatly stated his own opinion, or perhaps his own vision, of ADM: "Weíre an American school." In fact, Al-Dharra holds three accreditations, one American, one Kuwaiti, and one essentially international (ADM 2, 1998):
Al-Dharra is accredited by the European Council of International Schools (ECIS) and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). The schoolís Science Branch and International Branch Diplomas are accredited by the Kuwaiti Ministry of Education. This ensures that the schoolís programs of study are recognized in the Middle East, Europe, North America and throughout the world as equivalent to the accreditation standards for schools in their regions. (emphasis added)
Naturally, this situation raises many questions, including an important one: Can students have success in English and, more particularly, in American universities, without understanding something of American and/or British culture? Further, how can educators expect to prepare students for keeping "all their options open" (Al-Khansa, 2001) without dealing with differences in culture? This seems to imply, as suggested before and explored in chapter seven and eight, that ADM graduates need at least a Western cultural proficiency.
The situation becomes more complex when one considers the school faculty. Al-Dharra Madressor, like all Kuwaiti schools, does not hire Kuwaiti faculty because, simply put, Kuwaitis would not work in such a poorly-paid, low-status, labor-intensive job as teaching (Beesen, Meleis, & El-Sanabary, 1979; British Council, 1983). As a result, the Arab-speaking faculty comes from poorer Arab-speaking countries. These Arab speakers hold a variety of passports, but most identify themselves as Palestinian (Al-Jinnah, 2001). As a result, this creates the paradox, replicated in the Kuwaiti governmental schools (Beesen, Meleis, & El-Sanabary, 1985), of non-Kuwaitis charged with teaching Kuwaitis to become Kuwaiti. This makes for a potentially rich school learning environment, but it also creates a school of cultural contrast, even cultural clash.
The work of Blanc and Hamers (1993) and Arnold, Cuellar, and Maldonado (1995) offers an interesting introduction to the study of these kinds of situations. Given a strong clash of values and languages, the authors conceive that three possible outcomes can occur:
(a) biculturality (b) anomie [failure in both cultures] (c) an identification with one culture or another
In fact, a bit of analysis shows that these three cases exhaust the logical possibilities and would ally with Handlinís classic study of immigrants faced with the same dilemma, The Uprooted (Handlin, 1953) in which the first generation "Americans" remain immigrants, the second suffer from anomie and "biculturality," envisioned as a transition stage, and the third fully function as Americans. The second of the Blanc and Hamersí three alternatives forms a logical corollary to what Lambert (1972) terms "subtractive bilinguality" in which students fail to speak very well in either language. This second possibility also aligns with Durkheim's (1883) notion of "anomie."
The third alternative indicates that students can choose either one culture or the other with which to identify. Both Farquharson articles (1988; 1989) studying similar situations found that the amount of conflict in such situations depends on the relative respect accorded to the two cultures in conflict, with one inevitably emerging as the stronger, leading to choice c, the dominance of one culture at the expense of the other.
Others scholars disagree (Arnold, Cuellar, & Maldonado, 1995; Cuellar, Harris, & Jasso 1980; Montgomery & Orozco, 1984; Berry, 1990). Their work suggests that a person can become bicultural, choice a, rising to a level beyond proficiency in a second culture without necessarily giving up any adherence to the first. The setting of ADM provides a novel opportunity to explore some of these assertions.
This dissertation will consider three different, related questions. The first, of course, relates to the contention of the scholars above regarding cultural transmission, specifically applied to the school environment.
To what degree can a school foster a secondary cultural proficiency?
The Al-Dharra Madressor situation, by virtue of its uniqueness, explored in chapters seven and eight, however, can only suggest what might occur in other situations. Also, given the much stronger grounding of Kuwaitis in Kuwaiti Asil culture and the emphasis placed on its transmission, explored in chapter eight, this study must answer the narrower question:
To what degree does ADM foster a secondary [ Western] cultural proficiency?
Finally, though, Kuwaiti culture does not often appear in the English-language literature. To distinguish Kuwaiti culture from American culture, requires presenting Kuwaiti Asil culture in a comprehensible manner. Thus, this dissertation will also attempt to answer a third question:
What are [Asil] Kuwaiti values and how did they develop?
The Al-Dharra Madressor experiment and experience potentially includes more than the students since the school population includes the staff as well. Arab and American educators, as adults, come to the school presumably well-adjusted participants in their own respective cultures. Presumably, then, each teaching group consciously or unconsciously acts an agent in instilling either Arab or Western cultural proficiency. Thus, one could pose additional questions regarding both the influence of ADM on them and the effect of culture on ADM school governance, and this latter question has an indirect effect on the second question above. However, the extreme length of this dissertation required omission of material on these subjects.
The following sections will show that, indeed, Al-Dharra Madressor students emerge as Kuwaiti with a secondary American (Western) cultural influence, in many cases rising to levels of proficiency, sometimes biculturality. Students graduate as Kuwaitis and adhere to the same mixture of political-economic liberalism and social conservatism that categorizes their parents. Indeed, one can even argue that Al-Dharra Madressor gives students the tools to better carve their own Kuwaiti cultural identity by exposing them to a distinctly alien American model.
To accomplish the purposes intended for this study requires two distinctly different tasks. First, exploring the degree of Kuwaiti "Asilness" requires some knowledge of Kuwaitís history, culture, and development. The first section of this work, chapters one through eight, undertakes this task. This model will rely upon traditional historical analysis building upon the scholarship of several important authors mentioned in the next chapter. As that chapter will explain, this historical scholarship suffers from certain weaknesses. Specifically, the analysis relies on a limited number of works. The researcherís inability to read Arabic, also, meant only those Arabic works available in translation helped in the preparation of this section.
Since the remainder of the work heavily depends upon the model developed in this first section, its validity or lack thereof can weaken and limit the conclusions reached in the second, dependent, part of the analysis. Naturally, it stands to reason that though the first part of this work may have relevance, the flaws of the second do not necessarily weaken any conclusions in the first part. In decided contrast, the second portion of this paper depends upon the first, and a poorly written model for Kuwait society can seriously undermine the entire work.
The second portion of the dissertation, chapters nine through fifteen, will follow the path of a traditional mixed-methodology qualitative research study as explained in introduction to the formal research study in chapter nine with the methodology explained in chapter eleven. It suffers, then, the strengths and weaknesses of the qualitative research tools and methodology. It combines simple descriptive statistics from three measures, listed below, along with qualitative incident analysis in chapter fourteen.
Specifically, this analysis employs three different instruments as well as informal observation to achieve "quadrangulation." The three instruments include: the KATWII (the Kuwait Western Identity Index), an adaptation of the ARSMA-II (Arnold, Cuellar, & Maldonado, 1993), an established instrument designed to describe Mexican-American acculturation and biculturality; the AGS (Al-Dharra General Survey), an original survey designed to compare student responses to a model of Arab cultural values; the AWSIT (the Arab-Western Situational Interview), an interview instrument used to compare Arab teacher, Kuwaiti student, and Western teacher responses to a series of Western and Kuwaiti social situations. The KATWII, in particular, suffers from its origins as an instrument designed to measure the particulars of American assimilation, a weakness explored more in chapter eleven. Further consideration of all of these instruments occurs in chapter eleven while chapter tenís second literature review explores some of the problems inherent in designing and applying instruments to measure biculturality and cultural proficiency. Chapter thirteen synthesizes the results of these three primary instruments.
Chapter fourteen offers some direct, personal observations by the researcher as to the behavior of students in situations of either potential or actual cultural contrast to try to determine to what extent their behavior exhibits Kuwaiti and American patterns. In a sense, this chapter forms an extension of the AWSIT, substituting actual observations for fantasy situations. Since these incidents did not begin as formal observations and often suffer from the authorís own participation and selection bias, the information appears as supplemental analysis to that offered by the three principal instruments.
Many of the sources, anecdotes, and quotes come directly from the experiences of this author. Therefore, it requires some mention of the researcherís experiences in Kuwait to define his position.
This author, a veteran teacher, worked at Al-Dharra Madressor and lived in Kuwait for four years in the period starting in 1998. Initially hired on as a grade 9 English teacher, he later became a humanities teacher and, eventually, the Head of Department for Humanities, a position equivalent to that of a master teacher in the United States. Further, he served as the PTA representative. These experiences gave him a fair amount of exposure to the staff and parents at Al-Dharra, though admittedly his experiences with older students and their parents predominate.
Prior to coming to this school, he worked in two schools with very different school cultures, Tusitala Junior High School in East Los Angeles, a classic "immigrant school," and Samurai High School, a Department of Defense School for military dependents, i.e. "military brats" (Fruit 1991; 1997) in Japan.
At Al-Dharra, in addition to teaching, he coached the schoolís debate team, Kuwait national champions 2000-2001, and headed its Model United Nations (MUN) programs as well as hosting the KFSAC (Kuwait) Forensics competition. As MUN Director, he took top-level students on two or three trips per year, a chance to observe students and even some parents outside of their country and culture. He organized and ran the Kuwait Debate League, one of the few school activities to include both Indian and international schools. These extra-curricular activities gave him ample opportunities to talk with teachers from other schools and solicit their input on a number of subjects in this dissertation.
Further, this author stayed in Kuwait working for American Mentor School (AMS) in the summers of 2000 and 2001. In these classes, he taught students and adults, primarily Kuwaiti, who graduated from the public school system. He became one of the few Westerners to spend a summer in Kuwait, a time in which very few of the Asil remain in the country. Also, this summer job gave him another opportunity to speak with teachers who either worked in other international schools or who had quit these schools.
Finally, this author, of course, lived in Kuwait. In this context, it bears mention that, initially, all ADM teachers, including the researcher, lived in Abu Kamel, a suburb far from the city and predominantly Bedouin, and later in Sardiniyya, a much older and more diverse suburb that one might describe as the "liberal" center of Kuwait.
This variety of experiences forms the background for much of the anecdotal evidence needed to develop the description of Kuwait. In this context he would differentiate himself, though, as usually an observer of Kuwaitis and more seldom as an participant-observer.
An extremely important point requires some consideration before proceeding. The researcher does not speak or read Arabic. This places some functional and fundamental limitations on certain aspects of this work and the conclusions offered. Functionally, sections such as the literature review and general research for this dissertation rely on English-language sources supplemented by translations, a subject for further comment in both literature reviews. For several of the study instruments, Arabic speakers assisted this author in translation, and the translation process may have lost some of the original meaning.
More fundamentally, though, the earlier sections of this work depend upon external observation and study of another culture, not the real participation that speaking Arabic would allow. One can make a case that this limitation offers certain benefits; an observer sometimes can see things hidden to participants. In fact, some Kuwaitis and other Arabs who reviewed portions of this work, while commenting that these insights probably would not have occurred to them, generally agreed with the conclusions offered.
On the other hand, this does not really substitute for having personal experiences such as growing up in an Arab household or even entering into an intimate conversation in Arabic. This means, necessarily, the conclusions here come from an outsider using all possible tools at his disposal to study a phenomenon other than participation. To put this into a concrete example, Al-Dharra Madressorís Arab sociology teacher, one of the most experienced faculty members, did not review or comment on this work because he speaks little English, and translation would have taken resources far beyond that available to the researcher.
Another point seems worthwhile to mention here. Women form the majority of those English-speakers who write extensively about Kuwait. That group includes, most prominently, Linda Blandford, Jill Crystal, Mary Ann Tetreault, and Anh Longva. Kuwaiti, and indeed Arab society, places women into different roles than men; this makes some forms of research much easier for women and others more difficult. This may influence, for example, these scholarsí choice of subjects which, while not consciously feminist, concern the womenís vote (Longva, 1997; Tetreault, 2000) and their place in civil society (Crystal, 1996; Tetreault, 1995), an emphasis much less evident in the work of Arab scholars. Longva (1998) and Blandford (1976), the two who use their personal experiences as qualitative research, both did not work in the country and, again, a lot of their information comes from and focuses on women. Therefore, Americans who read their work may well find themselves reading about a male-dominated society as seen almost exclusively through female writers and feminine experiences.
In contrast to some of the authors mentioned above, this author came to Kuwait with a different position in society. As a male from a foreign group accorded high respect and slowly decreasing amounts of gratitude for the US Gulf War freeing of Kuwait, he enjoyed about as much social esteem as any foreigner in Kuwait might expect though perhaps less than that accorded to an engineer or diplomat. Hence, he went through different doors than did most of the previous American writers in Kuwait.
Still, his lack of Arabic proficiency and his status as a foreigner limited his access to many situations and must accordingly put limitations on the conclusions of this study.
In order to preserve the anonymity of the school and its community, this study uses a relatively strict policy of aliasing. Thus, the school here appears as Al-Dharra Madressor, not its real name. In most cases, this policy also extends to all persons directly connected with the school. The records of other schools listed appear as they do on-line, but the schools used in direct comparison to Al-Dharra Madressor also appear as aliases. All school officials at Al-Dharra and the comparison schools appear as aliases as well.
The author extended this aliasing policy also to individuals and families. In some cases, where the students do not appear in any anecdotes in the work, the actual family names appear, such as in historical documents. Those students appearing in anecdotes, the school owner, the Five Central Families, etc. all appear under aliases.
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