Abaya and Yoga Pants: Women’s Activism in Kuwait


  • Emanuela Buscemi University of Aberdeen (UK) American University of Kuwait




Women’s activism in Kuwait has historically intersected with nation building and regime perpetuation projects. The government has attempted to combine instances of modernity with growing political demands from the tribal and Islamist sectors, exploiting women’s activism as part of its regime survival strategy.

In Kuwait, Islam does not only shape the position of women in society, but also the political discourse and it is a main instrumentum regni for power legitimization. Secular activism has co-existed, challenged and collaborated with Islamist women’s committees and Islamic feminist groups, emphasizing the porous boundaries between secular and religious agency.

The present article investigates the relations between women’s militancy, Islam and modernity in contemporary Kuwait by means of a historical analysis, relying on data gathered through ethnographic enquiry and participant observation conducted in Kuwait between September 2012 and May 2013, and between January and May 2015.


Keywords: activism, women, Islam, Kuwait, Middle East


Author Biography

Emanuela Buscemi, University of Aberdeen (UK) American University of Kuwait

Scool of Social Science, University of Aberdeen