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Kurdistan on the Global Stage

Kurdistan on the Global Stage: Kinship, Land, and Community in Iraq

Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Kurdistan on the Global Stage
    Book Description:

    Anthropologist Diane E. King has written about everyday life in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, which covers much of the area long known as Iraqi Kurdistan. Following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's Ba'thist Iraqi government by the United States and its allies in 2003, Kurdistan became a recognized part of the federal Iraqi system. The Region is now integrated through technology, media, and migration to the rest of the world.

    Focusing on household life in Kurdistan's towns and villages, King explores the ways that residents connect socially, particularly through patron-client relationships and as people belonging to gendered categories. She emphasizes that patrilineages (male ancestral lines) seem well adapted to the Middle Eastern modern stage and viceversa. The idea of patrilineal descent influences the meaning of refuge-seeking and migration as well as how identity and place are understood, how women and men interact, and how "politicking" is conducted.

    In the new Kurdistan, old values may be maintained, reformulated, or questioned. King offers a sensitive interpretation of the challenges resulting from the intersection of tradition with modernity. Honor killings still occur when males believe their female relatives have dishonored their families, and female genital cutting endures. Yet, this is a region where modern technology has spread and seemingly everyone has a mobile phone. Households may have a startling combination of illiterate older women and educated young women. New ideas about citizenship coexist with older forms of patronage.

    King is one of the very few scholars who conducted research in Iraq under extremely difficult conditions during the Saddam Hussein regime. How she was able to work in the midst of danger and in the wake of genocide is woven throughout the stories she tells.Kurdistan on the Global Stageserves as a lesson in field research as well as a valuable ethnography.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-6354-1
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. 1 Kurdistan Glocal
    (pp. 1-40)

    In 1991, hundreds of thousands of people fled up the soggy, freezing mountainsides of Kurdistan, the Kurdish homeland that spans Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, to escape attacks by the Iraqi military. The attacks were ordered by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, one of the world’s most brutal dictators, in response to an uprising by three main categories of Kurdish fighters: thechete(çete) tribal mercenaries who had been on the government’s payroll, and long-standing government adversaries the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party, Partî Dêmokratî Kurdistan) and PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Yeketî Niştîmanî Kurdistan), whose fighters are calledpeshmerga(pêşmerge) “those...

  7. 2 Fieldwork in a Danger Zone
    (pp. 41-65)

    In 1991, the Cable News Network (CNN) and other television channels broadcast the plight of the Kurds to the world. Thousands of people fled Saddam Hussein’s military, up muddy, inhospitable slopes, afraid they would be attacked as they had been in previous years, when hundreds of thousands died. Millions of people around the world, including me, started following the developments in Kurdistan. Refuge seekers fled toward Turkey and Iran (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 1992), and reporters had assembled at the Turkish border to document their plight. “The Kurds” became a household phrase, and the refuge seekers’ desperate state...

  8. 3 A Man on the Land: Lineages, Identity, and Place
    (pp. 66-101)

    Kurdistan’s valleys and peaks, villages and cities comprise a place imbued with meaning, meaning that for many people is framed in terms of generations of male ancestors traced backward and forward in time using the logic of patriliny. In patriliny, biological relationships through males are regarded as having special significance over other kin relationships. Patriliny is one of the two forms of unilineal kinship reckoning, among a broader set of possible ways found around the world of determining who is kin. The other is matriliny, in which lines of descent are traced through females. The tracing of male unilineal links,...

  9. 4 Gendered Challenges: Women Navigating Patriliny
    (pp. 102-137)

    Historic shifts have taken place in the gender system of Iraqi Kurdistan. While the Iraqi government during much of the twentieth century promoted girls’ education and encouraged women to come into the public sphere (Al-Ali 2007), those efforts had little impact on Iraqi Kurdistan. Since 1991, however, education rates for both males and females in Kurdistan have increased significantly. In the past, a son was much more likely to attend school long enough to achieve literacy than a daughter. By the turn of the twenty-first century, in most families both sons and daughters were attending school long enough to become...

  10. 5 Politicking
    (pp. 138-171)

    The Kurdistan Region is abuzz with politicking, a form of, and impetus for, much of the social connecting that takes place there. By “politicking,” I mean political activity in the form of conversations and actions. Politicking is by definition active and always in process. Politicking comprises the political stuff of state, local, tribal, and lineage governance, aspirations to such governance, as well as economic jockeying both licit and illicit. In one sense, politicking is patriliny’s counterweight, because it is highly agenic and in motion, whereas patriliny makes claims to fixedness and immutability. But politicking also makes, shores up, and to...

  11. 6 Refuge Seeking, Patriliny, and the Global
    (pp. 172-203)

    I am a guest for lunch at the home of a family living in the Barushki neighborhood of Dohuk. The conversation turns to the Anfal campaign, in which the Iraqi government led by Saddam Hussein attacked people in Kurdish villages from the air, dropping chemical weapons on them. Suzan, a relative of the family who is also a lunch guest, tells her personal story of fleeing the government’s helicopters in 1988. She managed to get away with her life, but did not escape injury; in various places on her body, some of which she shows us, are large areas of...

  12. 7 Kurdistan in the World
    (pp. 204-228)

    The Kurdistan Region of Iraq is now a participant in the world’s system of states, even though it is, technically, only a “region” within a federated state. It conducts its own foreign policy business without going through Baghdad. Iraqi Kurdistan has long been called “autonomous” within Iraq, but it in many ways now exercises autonomy in the world, too.

    Isolated, desperate, and fighting a decades-old insurgency prior to 1991, the population of Iraq’s Kurdistan Region lived with very little awareness of what people there call “the outside”—the area beyond Iraq. They endured attacks by the Iraqi government that some,...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 229-236)
    (pp. 237-238)
    (pp. 239-254)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 255-268)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 269-270)