Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationStanford U.
Grant numberGr. 9480
Approve DateApril 25, 2017
Project TitleUssakli, Kerem Can, Stanford U., Stanford, CA - To aid research on 'Law's Encounters: Kafala Relationships in Iraqi Kurdistan,' supervised by Dr. Thomas B. Hansen
KEREM CAN USSAKLI, then a graduate student at Stanford University, Stanford, California, was awarded a grant in April 2017 to aid research on “Law’s Encounters: Kafala Relationships in Iraqi Kurdistan,” supervised by Dr. Thomas B. Hansen. This research is an ethnography of sponsorship agreements between displaced persons, and the broader social worlds constituted by displacement and political violence in Iraq. This practice of sponsoring [known as kafala] requires a great deal of trust between Iraqi Kurds and Arabs – former enemies, victims of state violence, and current political adversaries. Through 18-month fieldwork with Kurdish sponsors and Arab sponsorees in the Sulaymaniyah Governorate of Iraqi Kurdistan and the adjacent disputed territories, this research examined the ethics and social utility of inter-ethnic trust and obligation in Iraq following the U.S. invasion in 2003. It documented how Kurdish and Iraqi bureaucratic and security regimes use sponsorship agreements as tools for civilian identification, while making themselves indispensable to the navigation of inter-ethnic relationships between civilians. In addition to showing how various temporary agreements — sponsorships, proxyships, verbal deals — are central to how (non)citizens to secure temporary residencies, property, and jobs, this research also examined how deeper senses of obligations between ethnic communities can generate provisional sovereignties that defy modern state power in geographies riddled with protracted political tenuousness. Data collected for this research included participant observation conducted in roads and checkpoints, inter-ethnic neighborhoods, displacement camps, government and law offices, and border-towns; interviews with lawyers, low-level government officers, Iraqi Kurds and displaced Iraqi Arabs; archival material and analysis of legal codes as evidence. This project shows how civil war, state violence and civilian acts of resistance and inter-ethnic trust rework rules and moral principles of coexistence and survival between ethnic communities.