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Seeking Middle-Classness : University Students in Iraqi Kurdistan

  • Katrine Scott
Publishing year: 2018-01-26
Language: English
Document type: Dissertation

Abstract english

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 middle-classness 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.


Kulturen auditorium, Tegnérsplatsen, Lund
  • Fataneh Farahani (Docent)


  • Gender Studies
  • middle-classness
  • youth
  • universities
  • students
  • urban
  • post-conflict
  • war
  • narratives
  • stories
  • representations
  • figurations
  • normality
  • Middle East
  • Iraq
  • Iraqi Kurdistan
  • ethnography
  • autoethnography
  • feminist/queer/postcolonial epistemologies


  • Susan Wright
  • Diana Mulinari
  • ISBN: 978-91-7753-519-5
  • ISBN: 978-91-7753-520-1
Katrine Scott
E-mail: katrine [dot] scott [at] genus [dot] lu [dot] se

Senior lecturer

Department of Gender Studies



Katrine Scott holds a PhD in Gender Studies and is experienced in ethnographic fieldwork and writing.

Department of Gender Studies
Visiting address: Allhelgona Kyrkogata 14, House M, Lund
Postal address: Box 117, 221 00 Lund, Sweden
Phone +46 46-222 00 00 (operator)
Fax: 046-222 40 04

Faculty of Social Sciences