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Incorporating Practices of Publicness in Kuwaiti Parks

Chai Ithahha, Cricket, Diwaniya, and Malls

Abstract

This paper focuses on practices of publicness in Kuwait that do not necessarily fall under accepted discourses of public space, highlighting the importance of incorporating such practices within the existing literature as they affect landscape architecture. The practices include chai ithahha (women’s morning tea), diwaniya (predominantly men’s gathering), cricket games played by South Asian men, and mall outings. I suggest using these practices in the design of parks at a time of increasing privatization. While these practices enhance social connectivity in Kuwait and highlight political demands as in the case of the diwaniya and chai ithahha, I contend that these examples have limitations because they take place in exclusive settings, affecting access and appearance of certain publics based on class, gender, nationality, and location. The mall is a landscape and one can argue that malls can incorporate spaces for diwaniya and chai ithahha gatherings, and perhaps even cricket courts. Yet, there is something about the tactility of the landscape that is unsatisfied by the mall. The mall is meeting a certain need but is insufficient, as it remains an exclusive, private, and closed space. Parks stand as complex cultural spaces of representation and risk and they offer the best opportunity for an inclusive atmosphere. The practices highlight a potential for parks in dealing with privatization and segregation. Embracing and reinterpreting these practices in more inclusive parks may lead to the appearance and representation of more publics in spaces tailored to a place’s identity and people’s needs. This could mean introducing multiple programs in one space, like gathering spaces for a diwaniya and chai ithahha, and sports areas, within diverse urban settings, while also focusing on the micro-scale of design elements like seating. This paper concludes that public parks which embrace such practices begin to respond to the needs of society with all its complexity, becoming a terrain for fostering both community engagement and placemaking.

Published:
Pages:95 to 110
Section: Society
How to Cite
Alabdullah, W. (2020) “Incorporating Practices of Publicness in Kuwaiti Parks”, The Journal of Public Space, 5(1), pp. 95-110. doi: https://doi.org/10.32891/jps.v5i1.1253.

Author Biography

The University of Virginia
United States United States

Weaam Alabdullah is a PhD Candidate in landscape architecture at the University of Virginia. Weaam's dissertation, titled “Unresolved Tensions: An Everyday Approach to Unpacking Power Dynamics in Kuwait City’s Al-Shaheed Park,” examines the role of parks in transforming mechanisms of power, to get to new ways of understanding democracy, modernity, and nationalism, and how they increase identity tensions. Weaam holds a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Arizona, and a Master in Landscape Architecture from Harvard University. She has taught at the University of Virginia and practiced professionally in Kuwait.

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