Beyond Victims and Villains: Decolonizing and Localizing Knowledge Production of Gender-Based Violence in the Arab Gulf States

Authors: Hasnaa Mokhtar*, Clark University
Topics: Gender, Middle East, Development
Keywords: knowledge production, decolonial feminisms, Indigenous knowledge(s), capitalist patriarchy, coloniality of gender, neopatriarchy, decolonizing gender-based violence.
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: President's Boardroom, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


What if the knowledge produced in Westernized universities and utilized by development agencies to conduct research and form policies on gender-based violence (GBV) is inherently oppressive to Muslims? What if it tells a flawed narrative about the causes of GBV in Muslim-majority countries? What if this knowledge informs inadequate interventions, obstructs local efforts of antiviolence movements, and advances state violence against Muslims? Women’s rights advocates endorse standardized frameworks, laws, and policies to combat violence. But the discourse within academic and activist circles, initiated by decolonial and postcolonial feminists assert that theoretical conceptions of GBV, developed primarily in the Westernized world, fail to address how the coloniality of power destroyed local forms of sexuality, traditional knowledge, and the general understanding of being. In the Arab Gulf states, GBV is entangled in two discourses: reductionist Western-centric views and Islamists misogynistic dogma. Utilizing a decolonial feminist lens, this research seeks to uncover local knowledge on gender, violence, and social relations in Kuwait. It aims to examine how alternative understandings of GBV might create a space for a decolonial theory-making about gender relations, as well as inform culturally adequate prevention policies and laws. The study broadly asks the following questions: 1. How do Arab Gulf peoples understand and experience relationships between the genders and incidents of violence now and in pre-colonial societies? 2. Why do they think gender violence happens? Do they think it is a problem? How might a decolonial conceptualization of GB inform research and knowledge production prevention laws and services?

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