Diane E. King
I am one of few anthropologists in the past century to do residential participant observation research in Kurdistan, the ethnic homeland of the Kurds encompassing parts of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria. I work primarily in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, which has become something of a second home to me. I find Kurdistan to be a rich place to think not only about things Kurdish, but about life in the region stretching from the Maghreb to the mainly-Muslim parts of Central and South Asia, which encompasses societies rich in diversity but that have in common Islam, patriliny, aridity, postcoloniality and autocracy. Here, there is much for an anthropologist to explore and ponder.
My main areas of interest are kinship, gender, the state, and migration. I am interested in borders and citizenship as well. “Identity” is a rubric that encompasses all of these areas and is a thread through my work. In particular, I work on identity categories within the modern Middle Eastern state. In patriliny, the form of descent reckoning common to the vast majority of corporate groups and states from Morocco to Pakistan, only fathers pass on identity categories such as lineage, tribe, ethnicity, religion, and citizenship. I am very interested in the question of what cultural, social, and political outcomes patriliny engenders. How do new patrilineages form? What response does patriliny elicit vis-a-vis change, such as when people migrate or opt out of their patrilineally-conferred religious category? How do patrilineal identities such as tribe and sect intersect with and mutually form states and stateness? These are some of the questions that presently interest me. Globalization has become an additional interest of mine as my field site has become a site for global flows of ideas, labor, capital, and people. I am especially interested in how patriliny is reflected on and reshaped in a global context, and also interested in the broader effects of globalization on daily life.
My edited volume, Middle Eastern Belongings, was released in 2010. Recent shorter pieces include an article on fear of violence in the field (2009), and a co-authored article (with Linda Stone) in which we advance a new way to understand masculinity in patrilineal cultures (2010). I have several additional articles and an ethnography in process, all of which further anthropological scholarship on identity, kinship and the state in a globalizing locale.
A bit of background on my work in Kurdistan: I first entered Iraqi Kurdistan in 1995 as an affiliate of one of the many relief agencies that had arrived after the 1991 Gulf War to address challenges local people faced following decades of conflict with Baghdad, which included chemical weapons attacks and the destruction of thousands of villages. My dissertation, completed in 2000, explored diaspora-formation from the point of view of people in a homeland. Iraqi Kurds had governed themselves since an uprising in 1991, and the regional government they had created was vastly less autocratic than the Iraqi government had been. But in a seeming paradox, people were out-migrating in unprecedented numbers from Iraqi Kurdistan, mostly clandestinely as asylum-seekers to the West. In my dissertation I argued for linkages between people’s departures for Europe and several factors such as the disruption of patron-client networks, the local gender system, and ongoing fear of attack.
I have returned to Iraqi Kurdistan regularly in recent years. This is a dynamic, unique period in Kurdish history. In 2003, the United States forcibly removed the Ba’thist Iraqi government and occupied Iraq. For Kurdistanis, the war and occupation mainly yielded two things: the region was no longer estranged from the rest of Iraq, but became an official federal region of an Iraq led by elected leaders and much more open to the world at large. Secondly, it changed from a place people were fleeing from, to a place they fled to to escape horrific violence and instability in some other parts of US-occupied Iraq. Cross-border trade and oil extraction have led to an increase in wealth, and Kurdistan has become a construction zone. People talk of it – at times disparagingly and at other times admiringly - as a place undergoing “Dubaification.” The region is now highly globalized, with foreign labor from many countries, English-language universities, and busy international airports. Some issues brought about by decades of conflict and the recent change in Iraq’s political configuration remain, such as the status of some of the internal border zones with the rest of Iraq, most notably the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. For the most part, however, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq is experiencing a period of stability and increasing prosperity.
Before joining the UK Department of Anthropology in 2007, I taught at American University of Beirut (2000-2006, except during two research leaves), was a research fellow in the Department of History at the University of Kentucky (2001-2002), and carried out fellowships sponsored by the Hewlett Foundation (at UC San Diego, Spring 2004) and the Howard Foundation (at Washington State University, 2006-2007). I retain an adjunct appointment at Washington State University.
- Anthropology of the State
- Social Organization
- Theories and Concepts in Anthropology
- Ethnographic Research Methods
- Multidisciplinary Perspectives in Social Theory: War (team taught in the Social Theory Program)
- Middle East Cultures
- Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
- 2010 Middle Eastern Belongings. London and New York: Routledge.
- 2010 Lineal Masculinity: Gendered Memory within Patriliny. Diane E. King and Linda Stone. American Ethnologist 37(2):323-336.
- 2009 Fieldwork and Fear in Iraqi Kurdistan. In Violence: Ethnographic Encounters. Parvis Ghassem-Fachandi, ed. Pp. 51-69. New York: Berg Press.
- 2008 Back from the “Outside”: Returnees and Diasporic Imagining in Iraqi Kurdistan. International Journal on Multicultural Societies 10(2):208-222.
- 2008 The Personal is Patrilineal: Namus as Sovereignty. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power 15(3):317-342.
- 2006 Migration. Internal Displacement: Kurds. In Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures, vol. IV: Economics, Education, Mobility and Space. Suad Joseph, ed. Pp. 407-409. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers.
- 2005 Asylum Seekers / Patron Seekers: Interpreting Iraqi Kurdish Migration. Human Organization 64(4):316-326.
- 2005 Kinship and State: Arab States. In Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures, vol. II: Family, Law, and Politics. Suad Joseph, ed. Pp. 347-349. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers.
- 2007 A 16-Year Cycle of Treachery: Iraqi Kurds and the U.S. International Herald Tribune, 11 January.
- 2007 Using Rape as a Weapon. International Herald Tribune, 8 July.