introduction
E V E RY DAY C O N V E R S I O N S
A Moment
An ethnography of South Asian mi grant domestic workers’ adoption of Islamic
precepts and practices in Kuwait, this book begins with a moment of everyday
conversion, one leading me to research a reconfigured set of issues I had long
been focused on. It was a searing hot July day in 2004. I was seated in the
backseat of a taxi on my way to the home of Auntie Anjum, a new contact and
potential interlocutor from Pakistan. Jose, a taxi driver from the Philippines and
one of my de facto guides was swearing softly under his breath. We were late.
The emir’s impromptu decision to visit his favorite palace, a sprawling seafront
compound on the outskirts of Kuwait city, had left Jose and me idling behind
a hastily erected roadblock. Part of an ever- lengthening queue of cars, all we
could do was wait. I did my own cursing in the backseat. A couple of weeks
into my first trip to Kuwait, I was en route to attending a dars (lesson) or ga-
nized by women participating in Al- Huda, a Pakistani Islamic women’s move-
ment. My research on the movement’s transnational spread into the Gulf was
beginning in earnest— that is, if I ever got to Auntie Anjum’s home.
Anxious yet resigned, I looked out my win dow. A few meters ahead of us
in one of the other lanes was a white minibus emblazoned with the logo of
one of the largest construction companies in Kuwait. The men inside, wearing
identical blue work suits, looked to be South Asian. Sweat- stained, most were
slumped in their seats, or sleeping with their heads pressed against the win dows,
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