Date of Submission

Spring 5-1-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in International Conflict Management (Ph.D. INCM)


Conflict Management

Committee Chair/First Advisor

Dr. Debarati Sen

Committee Member

Dr. Edith Szanto

Committee Member

Dr. Jesse Benjamin

Committee Member

Dr. Maia Hallward


Today, the Kurds factor significantly both as a key to some of the most critical conflicts in the Middle East and also as citizens of the world interacting with a highly global, highly interconnected reality. Despite their importance, we lack a nuanced understanding of the complex and multi-layered cultural context of the Kurds that impacts the socio-political factors inside Iraqi Kurdistan.

The deeply entrenched political rhetoric of the hegemonic Kurdish nationalist narrative in Iraqi Kurdistan has served to homogenize the idea of what the Kurdish “nation” is, to whitewash deep social, economic and political concerns inside Iraqi Kurdistan and to marginalize those voices that resist nationalist ideals. Utilizing the work of Kurdish artists as well as arts-based perspectives, this study goes beyond the political rhetoric of Kurdish nationalism to understand meaning making within this cultural context and how meaning translates into ideas and behaviors, potentially, producing moments of conflict.

This is a study about the place of culture in conflict and conflict analysis and the intersection of the arts and activism, particularly as art creates a space for resistance and a pathway for one group of Kurdish artists in Iraqi Kurdistan to transform a peoples’ understanding of politics and their relationship to the world around them. Critically considering the production of artwork, and the linkages between contemporary Iraqi Kurdish visual and conceptual art, as a historically particular phenomenon, this research demonstrates the struggle of a people to transform historical relationships of power and to develop a culture of Just Peace to include being able to effectively shape their society’s architecture, including institutions, policies and organizations that support its function.