Zahra Ali is a sociologist, her research explores the dynamics of women and gender, race and class, as well as social and political movements in relation to Islam(s), the Middle East, and contexts of war and conflict with a focus on contemporary Iraq. She is interested in (racial) capitalism, (post)coloniality, decolonial, and transnational feminisms as well as critical knowledge production and epistemologies, especially in relation to global and public sociology. 

She currently leads Critical Studies of Iraq an initiative based at the International Institute for Peace aiming to foster, support, and develop the critical scholarship of social scientists and feminists based in Iraq. Ali works and writes in English, French and Arabic and is involved in feminist and critical knowledge production projects with activists and scholars from/in the Middle East and beyond.

Ali is currently working on a new book Uprisings and the Political Imagination, that shifts the dominant lens of social theory in analyzing mass protests away from a binary approach of power/resistance by looking at "the political" from the point of view of life, space, violence, and emancipation. The book relies on in-depth ethographic research considers the recent uprising in Iraq as a framework to understand how power works in the contemporary capitalist world.

Ali’s forthcoming book Decolonial Pluriversalism, co-edited with Professor Sonia Dayan-Herzbrun (Rowman & Littlefield’s Creolizing the Canon series, 2024) explores decolonial theories reflecting on non-eurocentric epistemologies, aesthetics, political thoughts, and activisms.

Her book Women and Gender in Iraq (Cambridge University Press, 2018; also translated into Arabic and French) is a sociology of women, gender, and feminisms in contemporary Iraq drawing from transnational and postcolonial feminist theory and based on in-depth ethnographic work conducted in the country following the US invasion and occupation.

Research Initiatives

Critical Studies of Iraq


Ph.D.  Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Sociology, 2015. 

M.A.   Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Sociology with an emphasis in Gender Studies (Genre, Politique et Sexualités), 2009.

M.A.   Université Rennes 2 Haute Bretagne, Sociology, 2008.

B.A.    Université Rennes 2 Haute Bretagne, Sociology, 2007.

Courses Taught

Sociology of Gender (undergraduate level)

Sociology of Contemporary Islam (undergraduate level)

Contemporary Sociological Theory (undergraduate level)

Postcolonial, Transnational and Queer Feminist Perspectives on Global Cities (PhD/postgraduate level)

Gendering Peace, War and Conflict: Critical Feminist Perspectives (postgraduate level)

Associated Programs

2021-22 Member, School of Social Science, Institute for Advanced Study (IAS)

2019 Research Fellow, Social Science Research Council (SSRC) & London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) Middle East Centre

2013-14 Visiting Academic, Centre for Gender Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)


2022-2024 Carnegie Corporation of New York for the project Critical Studies of Iraq



Women and Gender in Iraq: between Nation-building and Fragmentation. Cambridge University Press, 2018.

                              Arabic translation by Wasan Qasim, Academic Center for Research, Baghdad: Iraq, 2023.

                             French translation by Nada Ghosn, Syllepse, Paris: France, 2022.

Decolonial Pluriversalism. Co-edited with Sonia Dayan-Herzbrun, Rowman & Littlefield (Creolizing the Canon series), forthc.

Féminismes islamiques, La Fabrique: Paris, 2020 (second edition), 2012.

                               German translation by Christian Leitner, Passagen Verlag, Wien: Austria, 2014.

                               Turkish translation by Öykü Elitez, İletişim, Istanbul: Turkey, 2014.

                               Spanish translation forthcoming, Capital intelectual, Buenos Aires: Argentina, 2019.

Social Studies in Iraq: Perspectives in Human Rights, Peace and Violence. (In Arabic: Al-Dirasat al-Ijtima‘iyah fi al-‘Iraq: Manzurat fi Huquq al-Insan, wal-salam wal ‘unf). Co-edited with Ilham Mekki Hammadi. Baghdad: Iraqi Al-Amal Association.

Edited Journal Volumes

Mapping Shia Muslim Communities in Europe: Local and Transnational Dimensions. Co-edited with Yafa Shanneik and Chris Heinhold, Journal of Muslims in Europe (6:2) 2017.

Pluriversalisme décolonial. Co-edited with Sonia Dayan-Herzbrun, Tumultes (48), 2017.

Peer Reviewed Journal articles    

2023     The Political in Iraq's Thawra Teshreen. Journal of Middle East Women's Studies n°19/3.

2023     Theorising Uprisings: Iraq's Thawra Teshreen. Third World Quarterly, pp1-10.

2021      From Recognition to Redistribution? Protest Movements in Iraq in the Age of 'New Civil Society'. Journal of Intervention and StateBuilding n°15/4, pp.528-542.

2019      Feminisms in Iraq: beyond the religious and secular divide. Gender and Research n°20/2, pp.47-66.

2019      Being a Young British Iraqi Shii in London: exploring diasporic cultural and religious identities between Britain and Iraq. Contemporary Islam n°13/1, pp.349-367.

2018      Women’s political activism in Iraq: caught between NGOization and the struggle for a civil state. International Journal of Contemporary Iraqi Studies n°12/2 Summer/Fall 2018, pp.35-51.

2018     La Fragmentation du genre dans l’Irak post-invasionNouvelles Questions Féministes n°37/1, pp.86-105.

2017      Fragmentation de l’Irak et droits des femmes: mobilisations des féministes et de la société civile, in Guerre et violences au Moyen-Orient, Confluences Méditerranée, n°103, winter 2017-2018, pp.41-52.

2013      Le mouvement des femmes de l’Irak post-Saddam, L’Homme et la société, Sexe et Politique, n°189-190, February, pp. 223-243.

2013      Le mouvement des femmes dans l’Irak post-Saddam : entre Genre, Nation et Religion. Héritages passés et défis présents. Femminismi nel Mediterraneo, (eds) Leila El Houssi and Lucia Sorbera, Genesis, XII / 1, pp.71-99.

Book chapters

2023      Intifada and the Feminist Imagination (In French: Intifada et imagination féministe), in Gagner Le Monde, Paris: La Fabrique.

2022      The 2019 Iraqi Uprising and the Feminist Imagination, in Arab Uprisings: A Decade of Struggle, (eds.) Hamza Hamouchene and Miriyam Aouragh, Transnational Institute.

2020      النشاط النسوي في العراق في ظل حركة الاحتجاج in السلوك الاحتجاجي في العراق, (eds.) Fares Kamal Nazmi, University of Kufa Press.

2020      Women’s Day in the City of Men, in Women Rising: in and Beyond the Arab Spring, (eds.) Rita Stephen & Mounira M. Charrad. New York University Press.

2020     Mobilisations des féministes irakiennes depuis 2003, in Féminismes dans le monde. 23 récits d’une révolution mondiale. (eds.) Pauline Delage and Fanny Gallot, Paris, Éditions Textuel.

2019      Women’s Right and Western Imperialism in Iraq: Past Meets Present, in The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism. (eds.) Immanuel Ness and Zak Cope.

2018      Irak: entre Militarisation et Mobilisation Sociale, in Etats des Luttes. Moyen-Orient et Afrique du Nord, (ed.) Frédéric Thomas, CETRI/Syllepse, Vol. XXV - 2018, n°4.

2018      Political-Social Movements: Feminist: Iraq, in: Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures, General Editor Suad Joseph.

2018      The Fragmentation of Gender in Post-Invasion Iraq, The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Middle-Eastern and North African History, (eds.) Amal Ghazal and Jens Hanssen, Oxford University Press.

2016      Des féminismes décoloniaux, in Changer le modèle. Ici et maintenant ? Points de vue du Sud, (eds.) Aurélie Leroy and Frédéric Thomas, CETRI/Syllepse, Vol. XXIII – 2016, n°4.

2015      Irak: femmes en lutte entre chaos politique, confessionnalisme et ongisation, in État des résistances dans le Sud. Mouvements de femmes, (eds.) Aurélie Leroy, CETRI/Syllepse, Vol. XXII – 2015, n°4.

2015      Women’s Rights Activists and the Debates on the Personal Status Code in Postinvasion Iraq, in L’Irak: d’une crise à l’autre. Les réalités et les défis d’un Etat au bord de l’implosion, (eds.) Pierre Berthelot & Marius Lazar, (Stratégiques Orients), n°2-2015, Paris, L’Harmattan.

2013      Penser l’émancipation par le religieux : des féminismes islamiques, Penser l’émancipation. Offensives capitalistes et résistances internationales, (eds.) Hadrien Buclin, Joseph Daher, Christakis Georgiou and Pierre Raboud, Paris, La Dispute.

2013      with Laurent Bonnefoy, Retrouver Bagdad. Une jeunesse en quête de normalité, Jeunesses arabes. Du Maroc au Yémen : loisirs, cultures et politiques, (eds.) Myriam Catusse, Laurent Bonnefoy, Paris, La Découverte.

2010      Féminisme et islam : entretien avec Zahra Ali, in Féminisme au pluriel, (eds.)Pauline Debenest, Vincent Gay and Gabriel Girard, Paris, Syllepse (Cahiers de l’Émancipation).

2010      with Simona Tersigni, Feminism and Islam: a post-colonial and transnational reading, in Exchanges and Correspondence: The Construction of Feminism, (eds.) C. Fillard et F. Orazi, Newcastle upon Tyne, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 278-298.

Journal articles

2023      Iraqi Women’s Activism 20 years After the Invasion. Middle East Report n°306, pp.2-5.

2020     Irak : Le civil et le populaire au cœur de la révolte, in Soulèvements populaires. Points de vue du Sud. (ed.) Frédéric Thomas, CETRI/Syllepse, Vol. XXVII - 2020, n°4.

2019    Iraqis demand a country. Middle East Report n° 292/293, pp. 2-5.

2019     Feminist activisms in post-Da'esh Iraq. Religion, Violence and the State in Iraq. POMEPS n° 35, pp.85-89.

2018     with Khalef Safaa, Southern Discontent Spurs an Iraqi Protest Movement, Current History  n°117/803, pp: 338-343.

2018   النسوية في العراق:بين فرض نهج المنظمات غير الحكومية والعنف الطائفي والنضال من أجل دولة مدنية.  عمران. Doha:Qatar. 5, pp. 7-28.

2014   Feminismos Islamicos, Tabula Rasa. Bogota-Colombia, n°21, July-December, pp. 123-137.

Research Reports

2022    Women, Gender and the Iraqi Uprising. (In Arabic: Al-Nisaa wal-Gender wal-Intifadha al-'Iraqiyya) with Asmaa Jamil Rashid, Economic Research Forum Working Paper 1617.

2019      Gender Justice and Feminist Knowledge Production in Syria. Women Now for Development, April 2019.

2016      with Nadje al-Ali and Isabel Marler, The new dynamics in the inclusion and empowerment of young women, in Youth in the Arab Region: Prospects for Human Development in a Changing Reality, 2016 Arab Human  Development Report, UNDP.

2012      Des musulmanes en France : féminisme islamique et nouvelles formes de l'engagement pieux, Reliogioscope,Etudes et analyses, n° 27, Septembre 2012.

Public scholarship

2023  In Iraq, to Defend Gender is the Refuse Violence. Jadaliyya.

2023   الدفاع عن الجندر في العراق هو رفض العنف . Jadaliyya.

2020   Women and the Iraqi Revolution. Jadaliyya.

2020    عراقيات وثائرات. AS-SAFIR

2020    The civic and the political. Reflections on the Iraqi uprising. The Immanent Frame.

2020   "You have to walk in the path of life and in the path of death at the same time. I walked both paths and I survived." On the recent uprising in Iraq. Versopolis.

2020   Iraqis have been holding peaceful mass protests. The US strike and its aftermath are undermining that. Washington Post.

2020  How Us-Iran tensions have undermined Iraq's peaceful uprising. Middle East Eye.

2020  "We Demand a Homeland!". The Revolution of the Youth of Iraq. The Funambulist. n°27, pp.2-5.

2019   with Safaa Khalaf. In Iraq, demonstrators demand change and the government fights back. Washington Post.

2019   Open democracy .العراق: الاحتجاجات تطالب بالتغيير والحكومة والحكومة تستجيب العنف

2019     Protest movements in Iraq in the age of ‘new civil society’. LSE Blogs & Open Democracy, London.

2018    Women and Gender in Iraq,, Doha.

2018    After several high-profile murders in Iraq, here’s what headlines missed about their cause. Washington Post.

2018    New Texts Out Now Interview on Women and Gender in Iraq, Jadaliyya

2018     L’Irak cherche à tourner la page ouverte par l’invasion américaine. Orient XXI, Paris.

2017    Women’s Rights are under Threat in Iraq. Washington Post.

2017     Offensive contre les Femmes en Irak, Orient XXI, Paris.

2017    حقوق المرأة العراقية في خطر,Al-Aalem Al-Jadid, Baghdad.

2017     Reflecting on Multiple Fragmentations in a City of Men, Jadaliyya.

2017      El Bnaya,, Doha.

2017     محاولة جديدة للدفع بقانون أحوال شخصية رجعي في العراق, AS-SAFIR, n° 9177.

2017       Iraqi feminists mobilize against sectarian laws, Open Democracy.

2016      with Nadje Al-Ali and Isabel Marler, Reflections on authoring the chapter on young women for the 2016 Arab Human Development Report, Jadaliyya.

2016      Insurrection citoyenne contre la corruption et le confessionnalisme en Irak. Portraits d’une nouvelle génération de militants, ORIENT XXI.

2016       The Fragmentation of Women’s Rights in Post-invasion Iraq, The Funambulist Magazine n° 7, pp.4-5.

2016       Décoloniser le féminisme, Ballast.

2016       Young Grassroots Activism on the Rise in Iraq, Open Democracy.

2016        مقهى النساء في أربيل,AS-SAFIR, n° 13097.  

2016       Opposing NGOs, a Woman at odds: the Women’s Only Café in Erbil,AS-SAFIR, n° 13097.

2015       De Baghdad à Paris : Pas de paix sans justice !, Quartiers XXI.

2015       Parler d’islam pour ne rien dire, Quartiers XXI.

2015       صلة شرذمة العراق بحقوق النساء , AS-SAFIR, n° 13013.

2015       Fragmentation de l’Irak et droits des femmes, Les Carnets de l’Ifpo. La recherche en train de se faire à l’Institut français du Proche-Orient (Hypothè

2013      with Laurent Bonnefoy, Retrouver Bagdad. Une jeunesse en quête de « normalité »,ORIENT XXI.

2012     Les musulmanes sont une vraie chance pour le féminisme, interview by Solène Brun and Capucine Larzillière, Contretemps.

2012     Penser l’émancipation par le religieux : des féminismes islamiques, Contretemps.

2011      Premier pas de la renaissance féminine en Irak, Les Carnets de l’Ifpo. La recherche en train de se faire à l’Institut français du Proche-Orient (Hypothè

2011      أول الطريق الى النهضة النسوية في العراق لصبيحة الشيخ داودLes Carnets de l’Ifpo. La recherche en train de se faire à l’Institut français du Proche-Orient (Hypothè