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Seeking Middle-Classness – University Students in Iraqi Kurdistan

CHEF Lunch Talk by Dr Katrine Scott, Senior Lecturer, Department of Gender Studies, Lund University.

08.02.2019 | Søren Smedegaard Bengtsen

Dato ons 27 mar
Tid 12:00 13:00
Sted DPU, Campus Emdrup, room D120. Video-link to CUDiM, building 1483, room 656

Narratives of middle-classness are often missing from Western representations of wartorn regions in the Global South more generally and from the Middle East in particular. This thesis is concerned with stories of desires for ordinary everyday middle-class lives among young adult university students in urban Iraqi Kurdistan. The study is inspired by feminist ethnography and consists of participant observation and in-depth interviews with a group of university students in Sulaimani, Iraqi Kurdistan in 2012 at the University of Sulaimani and the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani.

With the central concept of storytailoring, the thesis presents a plurality of stories from students that destabilise Western-centric notions of what it means to be modern, middle-class and so-called ‘normal’. The study is located in urban (post-)conflict Sulaimani, a bubble of relative peace with historical and present violence close by. Three central themes structure the analysis of students’ stories: politics, temporality and gendered middle-class respectability. Central questions guiding the analysis are: What are the narratives of desired middle-class ordinary life? How are narratives of gendered figurations shaped and performed? And what do these narratives say about life for a section of relatively privileged university students in a (post-)conflict society? How can narratives about desired middle-class ordinary lives tell other stories about a wartorn region? Through the concept of normality-seekers, the study shows how narratives of desired middleclassness play a specific role among university students at the crossroads between their memories of war and political conflict and their dreams of a peaceful and successful middle-class future. The theoretical framework for the study is postcolonial, queer theory and feminist epistemological questions of critical knowledge production and analysis. Autoethnographic writing situates the study in both urban Iraqi Kurdistan and in a Scandinavian academic and political context. Poetry, fiction, media texts and photographs are also included in the analysis.