Profile: Zahra Ali

Assistant Professor

Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Global Urban Studies/Urban Systems Ph.D.

I am a sociologist, my research explores dynamics of women and gender, social and political movements in relation to Islam(s), the Middle East and contexts of war and conflict with a focus on contemporary Iraq. I am also interested in (post)coloniality, decolonial feminisms and epistemologies.

I have conducted in depth ethnographic research among women, civil society and youth organizations in Iraq. I am also interested in Islam(s) in diasporic contexts and its transnational dynamics and I have conducted ethnographic fieldwork among diasporic Muslim communities in France and in the UK.

My book Women and Gender in Iraq: between Nation-building and Fragmentation (Cambridge University Press, 2018) is a sociological study of Iraqi women’s social, political activism and feminisms through an in-depth ethnography of post-2003 Iraqi women’s rights organizations and a detailed research on Iraqi women’s social, economic and political experiences since the formation of the Iraqi state. Through a transnational/postcolonial feminist approach I look at the ways in which gender norms and practices, Iraqi feminist discourses and activisms are shaped and developed through state politics, competing nationalisms, religious, tribal and sectarian dynamics, as well as wars and economic sanctions. I particularly look at the context following the US-led invasion and occupation and analyse the realities of Iraqi women’s lives, political activism and feminisms especially the challenges posed by sectarianism and militarism.

The edited journal volume Pluriversalisme Décolonial co-authored with Prof Sonia Dayan-Herzbrun (Kimé, 2017) explores decolonial theories reflecting on non-eurocentric epistemologies, aesthetics, political thoughts and activisms. The volume draws on Latin American and Caribbean philosophies, concepts of creolization and racialization and explores Afropean aesthetics, arts and cultural productions, religion, feminisms, fashion, education and architecture.

My edited volume Féminismes Islamiques (La Fabrique editions, 2012; translated and published in German Passagen Verlag, 2014) reflects on transnational Islamic/Muslim feminisms through a postcolonial and intersectional feminist perspective analyzing the interrelationship between race, gender, religion and postcoloniality. This book also drew on my ethnographic research on Muslim feminists’ networks in France and my experience as an anti-racist Muslim feminist activist.

Research interests

Women, gender and feminisms in relation to (post)coloniality, race, ethnicity, religion, class and in contexts of war and conflict. Youth, civil society, social and political movements in the Middle East, especially in Iraq. Contemporary Islam(s), Islamisms and Muslim communities.

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