Redefining Kurdishness in the U.S. Diaspora: The experiences of Kurdish Students and Their Parents in Nashville Schools

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  • Demet Arpacık Graduate Center of The City University of New York



Kurdish Americans, The United States, Kurdish students, religion, identity, education


As a result of a cumulative history of genocide, discrimination, and assimilation, Kurds have found refuge in many countries around the world, including the U.S., with the hope of practicing their culture and speaking their language without the fear of imprisonment or death. Unlike their fellow Kurds in the homeland, Kurdish people in the U.S. largely have the freedom to talk in Kurdish, dance, and sing in Kurdish, and dress Kurdish clothing. Kurdish people enjoy certain political and cultural freedoms in the U.S., which is largely absent in their homeland (Hassanpour, Skutnab-Kangas, & Cyhet, 1996) but the on-going war on terror brings about new constraints and limits to these freedoms (Thangaraj, 2015b). This research aims to understand the dynamics of the Kurdish identity transformation and negotiations in the context of the U.S. diaspora and the role of educational institutions, as one of the primary spaces of encounter with the mainstream U.S. society, in this transformation. It seeks answers to how Kurdish students and their parents, as an inherently heterogeneous group, go through the complex process of negotiation of their identities in and through Nashville, Tennessee school system. It aims to understand the new struggles and possibilities that the Kurdish diaspora experience as they look for a place in the new society that has its own politics of identity. What does the information about Kurdish students and their parents’ experiences tell us about the sociopolitical context of the new country and its racial, ethnic and gender relations and more specifically about the educational system as one of its institutions in reproducing these relations and placing Kurds somewhere in the spectrum of these relations? How does the case of Kurdish students and parents speak to the larger Middle Eastern diaspora studies?


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Author Biography

Demet Arpacık, Graduate Center of The City University of New York

I am PhD. student in the Language, Context and Culture strand of Urban Education at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. I received my ME.d. from the Educational Administration and Leadership from Boston College. I have taught courses on bilingualism, English language acquisition, research methods in early childhood and social foundations of education at Hunter and Lehman Colleges since 2005. I am interested in language policymaking with respect to education and the Kurdish language movement in Turkey.


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How to Cite

Arpacık, D. (2019). Redefining Kurdishness in the U.S. Diaspora: The experiences of Kurdish Students and Their Parents in Nashville Schools. Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Studies, 6(2), 44–56.
Received 2019-05-28
Accepted 2019-07-13
Published 2019-08-16