Communication ETDs


Carmen Lowry

Publication Date



The Beautiful Iraqi Women project was a short-term participatory research project co-designed and co-facilitated with Iraqi refugee women. Pragmatic project goals were to learn about Iraqi refugees' resettlement experiences and create accessible and welcoming entries into the different spaces that govern refugee resettlement processes. Theoretical goals were concerned with learning how invitational rhetoric concepts of safety, immanent value, self-determination, and sharing perspectives contribute to achieving the pragmatic goals. Research questions framing this project were: RQ1: How is invitational rhetoric constructed in a short-term project with Iraqi refugee women? RQ2: In this invitational space, what do Iraqi participants' shared perspectives reveal about their lived experience as resettled refugees? The project was conducted through a series of weekly research and reflexive sessions over a six-week period with two groups of participants: seventeen Iraqi refugee participants and six Access participants. Access participants were individuals invited by Iraqi refugee participants due to their positions in and access to institutions that regulate policies and practices that influence refugee resettlement. I collected data through audio recordings of select research sessions, and my field notes. Audio recordings were transcribed verbatim and uploaded into Dedoose software. Arabic conversations were not translated. I applied provisional, focus, and affective first cycle coding processes; and one two-stage pattern-coding scheme to organize the data, then used hermeneutic and rhizoanalytic approaches to analyze the data. In response to RQ1, my analyses produced two strains of safety, procedural and psychic; located a distinct form of immanent value based in trustworthiness of an individual perspective; and identified observable expressions of self-determination through Iraqi identified self-regulation procedures, and decision making authority. Sharing perspectives served two key functions. First, the process of sharing perspectives allowed participants to get to know each other better, thereby revealing different positionalities among participants. Second, Iraqi refugee-shared perspectives challenged perspectives held by others in ways that precipitated multiple meaning-making spaces in which to explore specific perspectives emerging from particular Iraqi participant-identified issues. My second analytic pass responded to RQ2. My analyses suggest that Iraqi refugee lived experience occurred within distressing and regulated contexts; contexts relieved through Iraqi togetherness. Iraqi-refugee distress was noticed in three dimensions: psychic pain, obligations to help other Iraqi refugees navigate and comprehend resettlement processes, and discrimination unique to the New Mexico context. Iraqi refugee distress was intensified through thwarted attempts of Iraqi participants to engage in the governing structures of resettlement due to regulatory constraints that appeared unintelligible; lacked clear accountability processes; and were non-responsive to the particularities of being an Iraqi refugee in New Mexico. Iraqi togetherness was expressed through spending time with other Iraqi refugee women, and recognized as a political organizing strategy. In a final analytic move, I synthesized the analyses produced during the project cycle and identified two ways the invitational research produced in this project can be translated as praxis in transformative and rhizomatic research. I conclude by offering invitational strategies of inquiry that could be applied in future participatory research projects.




invitational rhetoric, Iraqi refugees, resettlement, safety, participation

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Communication and Journalism

First Advisor

Milstein, Tema

First Committee Member (Chair)

Foss, Karen

Second Committee Member

Lutgen-Sandvik, Pam

Third Committee Member

Hess, Julia

Fourth Committee Member

Goodkind, Jessica

Project Sponsors

Feminist Research Institute, University of New Mexico