A Jar of Shaykhs' Teeth: Medicine, Politics, and the Fragments of History in Kuwait

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This article examines 'Abd al-Ilah al-Qina'i's early 20th-century melding of local, imperial, and transoceanic health practices alongside his 21st-century reemergence as a protonational Kuwaiti doctor. In the early 20th century, geographically and ideologically expansive horizons of health care fostered the emergence of hybrid medical practices. Facilitated by his access to multiple medical spheres and his proximity to Kuwait's rulers, 'Abd al-Ilah was uniquely positioned to meet the demands of health-seeking consumers. In the 21st century, Kuwaitis' search for a national history that naturalizes claims to citizenship has resulted in 'Abd al-Ilah's new designation as Kuwait's first doctor. Both processes - the interplay between local cultures of health and emergent institutions and the imagining of medical history as a nativist teleology - demonstrate how health-seeking and history-writing efforts of a range of historical actors have placed medicine at the center of politics in Kuwait.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)589-603
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Middle East Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • history
  • Kuwait
  • medicine
  • politics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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