Iraqi Women’s Agency: Contesting Modernities & Traditions

By Nadje Sadig Al-Ali
Submitted to Session P2854 (Agency, Modernity and Gender, 2011 Annual Meeting
Gender/Women's Studies;
The proposed paper aims to critically engage with the dichotomy of modernity and tradition in relation to gender and in the context of the shifting social, political and economic realities of Iraq. I will explore the multiple understandings of modernity against the backdrop of rapidly changing social, economic and political universes. By exploring several significant moments in the modern history of Iraq, i.e. the (pre)revolutionary period during the 1950, the early Ba’th regime, the impact of war and sanctions and the period following the invasion in 2003, I will attempt to unpack the meaning of modernity for different social actors. I am particularly interested in showing the complexity of both state discourses and social actors, such as women’s rights and political activists.
The paper is based on a larger project in which I have explored the modern histories of Iraqi women through oral histories and life stories of different generations, ethnic & religious groups as well as secular and religious Iraqi women. The qualitative research was conducted in the diaspora (Jordan, the US, and the UK) as well as women who still live inside Iraq, but I only travelled to northern Iraq.