Accepted Paper:

A matter of practice: change and continuity in the lives of Iraqi women in Copenhagen  


Marianne Holm Pedersen (Danish Folklore Archives at the Royal Danish Library)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores how Iraqi women’s notions of belonging to different places interrelate with change and continuity in social practice. In the various social arenas of their everyday lives, women negotiate their belonging to local society in Denmark and the place of origin in Iraq through their performance of different kinds of social practice.

Paper long abstract:

Anthropological literature on migration frequently discusses change and continuity in migrants' notions of identity and belonging. On the one hand, studies show how migrants maintain relationships and identities connected with a place of origin, and on the other hand research has explored how migrants' identities are constructed or re-constructed within a new immigrant setting. However, studies tend to focus on collective identities and abstract notions of belonging created in relation to e.g. homelands, diasporas, or religious communities. It thus seems relevant to look more closely at how notions of identity and belonging are constructed and challenged in the more concrete experiences of everyday life within a particular context.

This paper discusses how Iraqi women's inclusion in and exclusion from Danish society take place in and through practise. For urban Shi'a Muslim Iraqi women in Copenhagen, their migration to Denmark has resulted in simultaneous experiences of change and continuity. Many find that their positions in society have changed, and they cannot access the middle class status they previously had. Likewise, they live within a different cultural context and they experience how practices, identities and notions of belonging continually change. At the same time, the women generally try to create or maintain a sense of continuity. They engage in the construction of an Iraqi Shi'a community in which to celebrate particular rituals and traditions, they try to pass certain traditions on to their children, and they maintain ties with relatives in their country of origin. Against this background, the paper explores how Iraqi women's notions of belonging to different places interrelate with change and continuity in practice. Processes of inclusion and exclusion take place in the negotiation of practice within the different social arenas of the women's everyday lives.

Panel W017
Problems of continuity and change