Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Asafa Jalata

Committee Members

Michelle Christian, Paul Gellert


Article 29 of the Kuwaiti constitution states that “The people are peers in human dignity and have, in the eyes of the Law, equal public rights and obligations. There shall be made no differentiation among them because of gender, origin, language or religion.” If I were to say that the 17, 818 km ² that make up the State of Kuwait is home to 4.2 million people, it would be a misrepresentation. While 4.2 million people do live in Kuwait, citizenship and immigration laws restrict 70% of its population, to varying degrees, from making their country of residence a home. Despite the promise of article 29, the stark and rigid stratification caused by these laws is in fact by design and a necessary function, rather than an unintentional byproduct of the legitimization process of the state, and by extension citizenship. The oppressive function of said citizenship-based stratification is justified through conceptions of race, class, and gender.

I define and discuss three categories within Kuwait’s population, each of which offer vast complexities that warrant deep investigation and analysis: Kuwaiti citizens, migrants, and stateless persons. For the purpose of this thesis however, it is most beneficial to understand them contextually and in relation to each other. Kuwait’s citizenship, or Nationality Law, created a sizable population of stateless persons whose very existence has been criminalized since their 1985 inclusion in the Aliens Residence law of 1959. Kuwait utilizes the Kafala system, in which the migrant is almost completely dependent on their sponsor. Citizenship in the State of Kuwait is defined through patrilineal lineage influenced by historical and religious conceptions of race, ethnicity, and genealogy.

In this thesis, I provide a historical and contextual overview outlining the nature and function of two pivotal citizenship and immigration legal developments in Kuwait; Kuwait’s Nationality Law promulgated in 1959, and the 1985 implementation of the Aliens Residence law of 1959, in relation to stateless persons. By analyzing the two focal legal documents mentioned above, I trace the effects of the policies on racial attitudes and conceptions, as well as class and gender divisions across citizenship and legal status stratum.

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."