Dr Hesham Al-Awadi is Professor in History at the American University of Kuwait, delivered a lecture on the importance of the history of Kuwait at the Yarmouk Cultural Centre, on Monday evening, as part of the Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah’s 23rd cultural season.
Dr Al-Awadi was lecturer in Modern Middle East Politics at Exeter University and Visiting Professor at George Washington University. He completed his BA, MA, MPhil and PhD in the field of Middle Eastern History, in various British universities including the University of Cambridge. The recipient of the Innovative Lecturer Award, his taught courses include History of Kuwait and History of the Gulf.
He began his lecture by asserting that the history of Kuwait if well told is not just fascinating, but essential, necessary and indispensable. He recognised the negative perceptions that people have about history that range from the idea of it being boring and irrelevant.
He shared that history can be accessed today in different formats of communication, and covers the scope of a myriad of interests from stamps to cars to architecture. He urged the youth of Kuwait to come up with engaging mediums advocating the history of Kuwait, sharing examples of movies and television shows, comic books, and video games, that have done the same.
Dr Al-Awadi stressed that the knowledge of the history of Kuwait is both relevant and indispensable today for three reasons. Firstly, it is important for the Kuwaiti people’s identity. He shared the words of Peter Sterns, “history provides identity, an understanding of national values and a commitment to national loyalty”. He shared that in 2008, after teaching world history for many years, to a young generation of Kuwaitis, who were well versed in the subject, but knew little of the figures in Kuwait’s own history, such as Sheikh Mubarak The Great, Sheikh Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah. He stressed on the need to close the gap in teaching of local histories while being global and not closing up to world events.
He put forth his view that the Kuwaiti identity should be founded on the roots of its past so that its celebrations in light of the upcoming national and liberation days are not merely ceremonial, but injected in the DNA, one that is based on sentiment but also logic, heart but also mind.
Secondly, he shared that Kuwait’s history has a lot to do with its future. While there is a lot of skepticism, of plans and slogans, Dr Al-Awadi believes that the future of Kuwait will involve patterns such as abandoning its non aligned and passive role in world diplomacy, to an active one, not only in regards to its humanitarian role, but also be an active player in politics and economy in multiple different ways. He pointed to the emergence of new cultural centers such as the Jaber Al-Ahmad Cultural Center, Abdullah Al-Salem Cultural Center as well as Kuwait’s efforts in becoming a financial and commercial centre. He shared that Kuwait’s centrality would necessitate an influx of people for cultural, touristic, commercial, humanitarian reasons. He shared that there would be a growing number of people eager to learn how to do business in Kuwait, and understanding the local culture of the people. He stated that there’s a tremendous market for people who want to be consulted on local culture and affirmed that history was a major factor in the makeup of culture along with other factors such as language, education, religion and family values.
For example, he shared that the meaning of “inshallah” is not embedded in its literal meaning of “god willing”, but in the historical value that a bedouin never says no to your face because that is disrespectful. In Kuwait’s high context culture the meaning of the word would depend on other indicators such as how it was said, when it was said, and so forth.
Thirdly, he asserted that Kuwait’s graduates need to be equipped with the skills that will enable them to make the future of Kuwait successful. Kuwait’s future depends on the vitality of the private sector as it moves away from the dependency of the welfare state. As the challenges facing the private sector are different from those the public sector contends with the Kuwaiti workforce will be required to provide the skills necessary for the specific industry to flourish. He drew attention to Sheikh Naser Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah who identified the gap in the education output in Kuwait and the lack of competitiveness that would make it difficult for Kuwaiti graduates to address the needs of the market and compete with the world in 2035. He shared that the young people of today need skills of problem solving, communication, flexibility, initiative, teamwork, curiosity, creativity among many others. He shared that historical figures are a source of constant inspiration for the young in pursuing their goals and developing the required skills. Historical events can foster values of teamwork by igniting the younger generation.
By Cinatra Fernandes – Arab Times Staff