Women, War, Diaspora and Learning - Research Resources
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This project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada/Conseil de recherches en sciences humaines du Canada.
  Last updated on April 1, 2004    
Current Research


Principal Investigator:
Shahrzad Mojab
Associate Professor Ph.D. (Illinois)

Transnationalization, that is, the break-up, displacement and re-constitution of nations and ethnic peoples, is one of the important but understudied trends of globalization. The Kurds of the Middle East, now dispersed throughout the world, from Australia to Canada, constitute one of the most interesting cases of population movement in our times. Coming from “traditional” societies in the process of disintegration through war and state repression, Kurdish refugees, especially women, face enormous challenges in the process of resettling, and becoming citizens of the nation-states in the West. They have to learn about a whole universe that differs from their previous world – learning to live in different economic and social systems, acquiring different languages, coping with different gender relations, and integrating into different legal and political regimes. For these new citizens originating from war zones, learning, unlearning and relearning constitute crucial issues of cohesion and conflict that cannot be reduced to questions of education only.

There are about 25 to 30 million Kurds now dispersed in the Middle East, Europe, North America, and Central Asia. Kurds are the fourth largest ethnic people in the Middle East, outnumbered only by the Arabs, the Turks and the Persians. The Kurdish people were divided among the newly established nation-states of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria in the wake of World War I. These centralist states did not allow the development of civil society in Kurdistan. Indeed, the policy of assimilating national minorities like the Kurds reproduces a situation of war and conflict, which continues to impact their lives even in Canada. These wars destroyed the budding civil society in all parts of Kurdistan. Ethnic cleansing, genocide and ethnocide have been the official policy of countries that rule over the Kurds. The century-long plight of Kurdish people for sovereignty and self-determination gained some international attention following the mass exodus of the Kurds from Iraq in the aftermath of the US-led Gulf War of 1991. Since then, international human rights organizations have reported ongoing internal and external conflicts leading to the massive dislocation of sizeable populations. The genocidal policies of Iraq and the internal war in Turkey have contributed to the endless migration of this people to the West.

This research is an in-depth inquiry into the challenges and promises of re-rooting of war-stricken Kurdish women in Canada, Britain and Sweden. Learning is a crucial factor in this process of re-settling. However, theories of learning do not account for the contexts and contingencies of learning, their diverse forms, and the creativity of the learners in moving beyond the confines of formal learning. This qualitative study addresses some of these silences or gaps. It aims at contributing to three interrelated areas: (a) learning theory by accounting for the relationship between war-related violence and learning, especially the dynamics of women’s ‘informal learning,’ (b) diasporic studies, a new field in need of both empirical research and theoretical development, and (c) gender studies, especially a gendered approach to diasporic life and transnationalization. A total of 45 Kurdish women from these countries will be interviewed in order to collect data on (1) their experiences of war in the countries of origin, (2) the ways in which war relates to their learning in the diaspora, and (3) the diversity of learning, the creativity of learners, and obstacles to learning about re-rooting.

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