Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Ann K. Ferrell (Director), Tim Evans, Johnston Njoku

Degree Program

Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Nashville, Tennessee, is home to nearly fifteen thousand ethnic Kurds. They have come in four distinct groups over the course of two decades to escape the hardship and horror of brutal central government policies, some directed toward their extinction. Many of that number are young people who were infants or toddlers when they were whisked away to the safety of temporary way stations prior to their arrival in the United States. What that means is that these youth have spent the majority of their formative years within the context of the American culture. This thesis is a study of how they view their place within and/or apart from that culture and the one into which they were born, the Kurdish one. My contention is that they all live a double life. Over the course of a seven-month period in 2013, I conducted recorded interviews with eleven Kurds in Nashville, ages 16-26. Most were young women but all represented a healthy cross-section of experience as third-culture kids. What I discovered is presented in three chapters dealing with the issues of emigration/immigration, gender, and identity. That is prefaced by a brief history of the Kurdish nation and of their movement out of Kurdistan, as well as a discussion of my fieldwork procedures and products. My interviewees present their perspectives on each of these issues through select transcript portions provided in each chapter. My thesis was direct: young Kurds in Nashville live a duality in which neither part, American or Kurdish, is equally valued or shared at all times. They live in two worlds but are not and, perhaps, cannot be fully invested in either. That is what their words spoke to me. But just as clearly, there was an unrivaled individuality in the way that every one of the eleven related to each community of which they were a part. Some were closer to one than the other while others attempted a seemingly uncomfortable straddle. Either way, they managed the hand they were dealt as they deemed proper and most did so remarkably well.


Anthropology | Social and Cultural Anthropology | United States History