AUK Lecture Examines Arab Women in Academic Scholarship and Everyday Life
The Center for Gulf Studies (CGS) at the American University of Kuwait (AUK) concluded its 2018-2019 lecture series by hosting its current CGS Fulbright scholar, Ms. Hasnaa Mokhtar, a PhD Candidate in International Development at Clark University. The talk, entitled, “Beyond Victims and Villains: Decolonizing Knowledge Production of Gender-Based Violence in the Arab Gulf States,” featured an analysis of gender-based violence against Gulf Arab women in various spheres, including academic literature in multiple fields, primary sources, and everyday life.
The evening kicked off with a bilingual poetic prelude by Ms. Sarah Al-Obaid, an English literature major at the Gulf University of Science and Technology and a rising figure in the Kuwait poetry scene. Ms. Al-Obaid explored themes of identity and representation in her piece, Ode to Stories Untold. Similar themes were unfolded in Mokhtar’s lecture, where she instead referred to generalized gender representation and analyses within historic and contemporary English-language scholarship in the Arab Gulf states.
Mokhtar identified and explored three main overarching themes related to knowledge-production and policy-making in the region: the presence of a gender gap in such literature which reflect the gender-structuring of knowledge, western-centric knowledge produced about the Gulf, and gender-based violence which perpetuates the dual reductionist views of either “saving the victimized Arab Gulf woman” or “Islamist misogynistic dogma of protecting the piety of the Arab Gulf woman.” She used these themes to motivate her main research question: how might the de-colonial decentralization of gender violence inform research, knowledge-production, and anti-violence laws and services?
Dr. Shareefa Al-Adwani, the Director of the Center for Gulf Studies, commented, “Ms. Mokhtar’s research is an incredibly important contribution to the field of Gulf Studies with respect to de-colonialization of the academic literature, enhancing an awareness of reductionism and violence, and being more inclusive of other, intersectional narratives. While it is clear that Ms. Mokhtar’s dissertation will impact the academic field of Gulf Studies, it is also crucial to note that Ms. Mokhtar has fostered a network of Arab Gulf women who share similar experiences and has developed connections between academics across Kuwait-based universities as a result of her research and innate ability to encourage cooperation and discussion across multiple sectors.”
Hasnaa Mokhtar is a Ph.D. candidate in International Development at Clark University, After graduating in 2015 with an M.A. in International Development and Social Change, Hasnaa developed a passion for transdisciplinary approaches to addressing gender violence in Muslim communities. As a Saudi-American, she focuses her research, journalism, and activism on amplifying the voices of Muslim women and tackling the injustices of gender-based violence. Hasnaa worked as a journalist in Arab News, and her articles appeared in several publications including Fortune, Teen Vogue, Yahoo, and Bustle.com. Prior to arriving in Kuwait for her dissertation research, Hasnaa served as the executive director for the Center for Nonviolent Solutions in Worcester, MA.
Hasnaa Mokhtar, CGS Fulbright Scholar