Under the supervision of Dr. Veena Das, graduate student Joseph Andrew Bush will undertake a study of secularism and political critique in a Muslim society. His research will be carried on in the Kurdish city of Suleimani, Iraq. This is a suitable site for the research because the city has a long tradition of Kurdish poets who identify themselves as Muslims, but strive to become non-practicing Muslims by separating themselves from some Islamic traditions. They use poetry and prose articles in newspapers to ply their critique of social norms that others defend as Islamic traditions.
Bush will use a combination of qualitative, ethnographic research methods. He will interview employees at three Kurdish media institutions; collect critical prose documents from archives; carry out intensive participant observations with a select group of Kurdish poets; attend and observe conferences; and do a content analysis of school textbooks.
The research is important because it will be one of the first social science studies of how secularism is practiced and maintained in a Muslim society. It will contribute significantly to the education of a social scientist who also is learning two critical languages, Arabic and Kurdish, in order to carry out the research.