Ahmad Benswait
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Language and statelessness
The impact of political discourses on the Bidoon community in Kuwait
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With the creation of the modern Kuwaiti state, some people indigenous to the territory were excluded from citizenship. Those people and their descendants are still excluded from Kuwaiti citizenship and are known as ‘Bidoon’, or ‘without’. Since for the most part they do not have access to any other citizenship, the Bidoon in Kuwait are also stateless. This chapter uses an applied linguistic lens to interrogate the impact of three semiotic objects on the Bidoon community in Kuwait. It considers a speech from a government official, a non-citizen identity card, and an excerpt from an NGO report. It examines how these function to (re)produce social inequality and ‎(re)construct the social, political, and legal exclusion of the Bidoon. The author draws on his own experience both as an applied linguist and as a member of the Bidoon community in Kuwait to provide an analysis of the role of semiotic objects of control in the governance of citizenship in Kuwait and, by extension, the governance of the population excluded from that citizenship. While the case described in this chapter is in many ways unique, the author also shows how the analysis of language and of semiotic objects are crucial to understanding statelessness and its relationship to the governance of citizenship more generally.

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