Spotlight on... | 28/05/2024

"Spotlight on..." DP Graduate Dastan Jasim

Dastan Jasim recently defended her dissertation! She completed her PhD on the topic “Civic Culture without a State: Kurdish Civic Culture in Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria between State-Control and Resistance” at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg on March 15. Learn more about Dastan’s PhD journey in the graduate interview below.

  • What was your initial motivation to address the topic of your dissertation?

    My doctoral thesis dealt with the question of how the pro-democratic political culture of Kurds can be explained and why, contrary to many other political ideologies, so many have pro-democratic attitudes. I was motivated to do this by the Kurds' fight against the Islamic State and also against the theocracy of Iran. At a time when research on the Middle East mostly analyzes autocracies, I found the analysis of those who stand up for democracy and freedom despite all the difficulties to be far too neglected.

    How would you explain your research topic to your grandmother in three sentences?

    Grandma, you weren't allowed to learn to read and write because it was considered immoral for women. Nevertheless, you were the biggest supporter of my academic career and were happy with me when we received the email from GIGA during the lockdown in Kurdistan that I had been accepted for the doctoral program. That's what my doctoral thesis is about: why people and societies that have been deprived of freedom and participation still work for a world in which all descendants have this.

    What was your most influential experience during your time as a doctoral student?

    Conducting the surveys in Kurdistan was wonderful. I got to know so many people and their stories, the quantitative survey was almost boring compared to what people of different ages and social backgrounds opened up to me. They always surprised me. An elderly farmer in a village north of Sulaimaniyah was asked by my survey companion what gender he was. He replied, out of his Kurdish politeness with a wink: Choose what you want, my brother. This openness, this humor, is often simply lost in a European view of the Middle East that only knows demonization or romanticization.

    What was the biggest challenge during your research process and how did you cope with it?

    The pandemic was a big challenge, everything was remote most of the time and a lot of the networking that was supposed to be done in the first semesters initially made little progress. Planning the field research was also difficult and sometimes you caught it yourself. Ironically, I had Corona twice: one week before the start of the field research and one week before handing in my doctoral thesis. Looking back, everything turned out the way it was supposed to and that reminds you in the here and now, despite all the challenges, that in the end everything is a question of insight, that you should only want to influence what you can influence.

    GIGA Doctoral Programme

    The GIGA has a long tradition of integrating young researchers into its research structure. This tradition culminated in the establishment of the GIGA Doctoral Programme. This programme seeks to provide a platform for young, international, and German academics, from which they can pursue their research and professional development, particularly in the field of comparative area studies (CAS).

    Doctoral Programme


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