Global outlook: Research on everyday life nuances image of Iraqi Kurdistan
Fashion shows, university parties, and hanging out in shopping malls and cafés are part of everyday urban middle class lives in Iraqi Kurdistan despite surrounding war and violence. We need to know all the stories in order to get a more nuanced picture of everyday life in a region ridden by conflict, says Katrine Scott, PhD candidate at the Department of Gender Studies at Lund University.
In the fall of 2012, PhD candidate Katrine Scott held a lecture on qualitative methods at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) and presented her research project in the making on Everyday Student Lives in front of a group of students. After her presentation, a student, ‘Nina’, came up to her. She had grown up in Europe but now lived in Sulaimani and studied at AUIS.
– She right away wanted to participate in the study since she strongly wanted people in Europe to know that Iraqi Kurdistan was not all war and suffering – a one-sided narrative that she often met when talking with people living in Europe. She wanted to tell “how it really is” for her to live a middle class university student life in urban Sulaimani in Iraqi Kurdistan, explains Katrine Scott.
Katrine Scott is writing up her thesis with the working title We just wanna live – desires of normality in queer times of war. University students in urban Iraqi Kurdistan (expected fall 2017). Her research focuses on a group of urban university students from two universities in Sulaimani. Central are narratives of middle class aspirations in urban everyday lives with shopping malls, driving around in the city in cars, and desires of ‘normal’ futures to come.
– The desires of ordinary peaceful middle class lives are central in the students’ narratives, Katrine Scott underlines.
With the concept of normality-seekers, Katrine Scott attempts to capture how these desires of middle class normality should be understood in relation to the context of a war-torn region, and as a way for students to try to turn away from both historical and present violence and political conflict by turning towards ideas of ordinary, peaceful and modern middle class lives.
– Writing about these desires of middle class normality among university students challenges prevailing representations of Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan as only a place of war with either heroic Kurdish Peshmerga fighters or victims of violence. These are single story-representations that are dominating Western media coverage of the region today, says Katrine Scott.
Story tailoring is another concept that she uses in her dissertation. With story tailoring, Katrine Scott explores how certain stories about Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan related to war are represented in Western media coverage while other stories – the stories of ordinary everyday middle class lives – are often left out. Her PhD dissertation is a space to project these stories which are often not given space otherwise.
– It is important to try to engage in a decolonization of knowledge production, questioning the dominant Western centric representations of lives lived in the Global South that does not leave much space for nuances. With my research, I wish to contribute to a tradition of postcolonial feminist scholarship questioning the foundations of knowledge production, Katrine Scott concludes.
Photo Chris De Bruyn, Flickr