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Accepted Paper:

Moral visions of self, schools, and state in Iraqi Kurdistan  
Diana Patterson Hatchett (University of Kentucky)

Paper short abstract:

How do citizen-subjects of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) manage problems of identity and mobility in a religiously and ethnically diverse territory during this time of threat to the region from the Islamic State?

Paper long abstract:

This paper focuses on the powers and mobilities that intersect at a Christian private school in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. I examine how genealogies of the "self" inform the identity-transformation projects of people embedded in patrilineages, confessional groups, education programs, and the Kurdistani quasi-state. The school is a productive site for examining how physical, ideological, or moral displacements variously constrain and enable people to envision a good life. Many of the school's staff, teachers, and students are "in transit," whether as internally displaced people, as returnees from the Kurdish diaspora, or as potential emigrants. Additionally, the school, which uses a model of "liberal" education encouraging critical thinking and self-reflection, offers a space where some ideological and moral transformations, or "conversions," are possible. I use an expanded concept of "conversion" encompassing religious, ethnic, or political attachments. In Iraq, and in the Kurdistan Region also, the state, confessional groups, and families tightly regulate identity based on patrilineal kinship, in which a person at birth inherits the religious and ethnic identity of his or her father and is then expected by state and society alike to remain in that inherited ethnosectarian category for life. The private school, however, is an exceptional space in which people whose lives are otherwise characterized by stasis or displacement can experiment with mobilities and become emplaced in new regimes of power and moral visions.

Panel P145
Hope, home and abroad
  Session 1