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Ivana Cosmano

LAHRI Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Areas of expertise
Sociocultural change; agency; families; youth; intergenerational conflict; gender dynamics; gendered subjectivities; social capital and community cohesion; education; migration; Middle East and Gulf region.
Clothworkers South Building, University of Leeds Campus
Arts, Humanities and Cultures
Leeds Arts and Humanities Research Institute

In 2022, I was awarded my PhD in Middle East Studies at the University of Leeds, which was fully funded by the prestigious LCS Award for Excellence. My doctoral thesis entitled “Transforming Norms and Desires: Gendered Self-Fashioning Amongst Young, Educated Jordanians”, examined gender, youth and family dynamics in Jordan, shedding new light on the Jordanian youths’ desire for change on both a personal and societal level. The research explored young women’s and men’s redefinitions of gender roles and relationships, as well as their complex subjectivities, agency and self-fashioning, which ultimately contributed to individualising their new value system. The findings of the research highlighted how young people bring about social change by finding creative ways to enact desired realities. My work has contributed to decolonising limited approaches to the analysis of social change in Middle Eastern societies by rethinking how we theorise Arab/Muslim people’s agency in relation to hegemonic structures and discourses.

In my role as a postdoctoral fellow at LAHRI, I am revising my PhD thesis into a monograph and publishing two research articles. An article investigates Jordanians’ sociopolitical attitudes change before and after the 2011 Arab uprisings, while another explores young Jordanians’ understandings of gender roles from an intersectional perspective.

In addition to being a LAHRI Postdoctoral Fellow, I am also a social researcher currently working in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, where I am leading the measurement and analysis of the world’s first full-scale participatory ecosystem prototype. Using a participatory culture approach, the research project aims to develop a new model for fully inclusive and sustainable urban neighborhoods, promote social capital creation and strengthen social cohesion.

Throughout my career, I have worked internationally in academia as a lecturer and researcher, as well as in humanitarian aid, contributing to several NGO projects addressing the Syrian refugee crisis in Jordan.

At the University of Leeds, I have been involved in the teaching activities of the AIMES department, where I taught BA and MA modules related to Middle East politics, history and culture. I also led the gender cluster on “Intersections of Gender and Islam in the MENA region” for the MA module “Debating the Middle East: Islam, Politics and Culture”, which explored some of the key challenges faced by Muslim women today.

Prior to receiving my PhD in the UK, I received my BA (Hons) in Asian and African Languages and Cultures (2011) and MA in Arabic, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies (2013) from the University of Naples “L’Orientale”, Italy.

Research Interests

My research interests lie at the intersection of several disciplines, including Sociology, Youth and Family Studies, and Gender and Masculinity Studies, with reference to the MENA region. My work explores social norms and values change in contemporary Middle East; it examines the shifting desires and expectations of young generations, gender roles, gendered self-makings, family dynamics and intergenerational conflict as a means of gaining insight into ongoing societal transformations and providing a better understanding of citizens’ demands for change. A key objective of my research is to provide evidence-based research to shape and inform policymaking aimed at empowering people’s lives and enhancing the wellbeing of families and communities.

Further to this, I am currently working on two new research projects, one exploring the less scrutinised reasons behind MENA youth migration, and the other supporting the development of a new social cohesion index for the GCC countries.

Workshops and Conference Papers (** Invited speaker)

  • “The creativity of the ordinary: Young Jordanians between real and imagined worlds”, The Twelfth Nordic Conference on Middle Eastern Studies, University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland, Sep 2022.
  • “Co-opting meanings of gendered expectations: Young Jordanians’ agency in disrupting the country’s gendered status quo”, BRISMES, Annual Conference, University of St Andrews, Scotland, UK, Jul 2022.
  • “Deconstructing the gender normativity narrative. Jordanian young men challenge notions of hegemonic masculinity”, 26th International DAVO/DMG Congress, Asien-Africa-Institute of Hamburg University, Germany, Oct 2019.
  • “Reshaping gendered boundaries in Jordan: Youth-led initiatives build new concepts of gender relations in the country”, The Eleventh Nordic Conference on Middle Eastern Studies, University of Helsinki, Finland, Aug 2019.
  • **“The relation between socio-political identity and gendered features of spoken language emerging from the (re)definition of masculinity and femininity notions among the Jordanian educated youth”, Woolf Institute, University of Cambridge, UK, Jun 2019.
  • “Nuancing patriarchy: Jordanian educated youth and (changing?) notions of Masculinity”, BRISMES, Annual Conference, University of Leeds, UK, Jun 2019.
  • “The coloured walls of Amman: artists’ appropriation of urban spaces between resistance and compliance to power”, Workshop on Politics and Popular Culture in the Middle East: Power and Resistance Post-2011, University of Warwick, UK, May 2019.
  • “Feminist activism in academia: Rula Quawas struggle for women’s empowerment in Jordan”, PGR Conference, University of Leeds, UK, May 2018.
  • **“The influence of Arabic on the Italian Language”, Arab Open University, Amman, Jordan, Feb 2017.

Awards, research funding and scholarships

  • “LAHRI Short-Term Post-Doctoral Fellowship Research Funding”, Leeds Arts and Humanities Research Institute, University of Leeds, UK, Aug 2022.
  • “AHC Faculty Research Dissemination Award 2021/22”, LCS, University of Leeds, UK, Apr 2022.
  • “BRISMES Bursary”, British Society for Middle Eastern Studies, UK, Mar 2022.
  • “PGR Extension to Studentship Funding”, LCS, University of Leeds, UK, Sep 2020-Mar 2021.
  • “PhD Studentship Award for Excellence”, LCS, University of Leeds, UK, 2017-2021.
  • “AHC Faculty Research Dissemination Award” 2018/19, LCS, University of Leeds, UK, 2018-2019.
  • “Arabic Language Scholarship for Advanced Arabic Speakers”, Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs & the University of Jordan, University of Jordan, Amman, Jordan, Sep-Dec 2015.
  • “Arabic Language Scholarship for Professional Use”, Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Kuwait University, Kuwait University, Kuwait, Sep 2014-May 2015.


  • Cosmano, I. 2021. Transforming Norms and Desires: Gendered Self-Fashioning Amongst Young, Educated Jordanians. D. thesis, University of Leeds. Available from:
  • Cosmano, I. 2016. Al via le lezioni per i bambini siriani in Giordania. [Syrian children return to classrooms]. Un ponte per.
  • Cosmano, I. 2016. Il sogno di una nuova vita per le famiglie siriane. [Syrian families dream of new life]. Un ponte per.
  • Cosmano, I. 2016. Storia di una sposa temporanea. [A Syrian wife: story of a temporary marriage]. Osservatorio Iraq, Medioriente e Nordafrica.


  • PhD in Middle East Studies, University of Leeds, UK.
  • MA (Hons) in Arab, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Naples “L’Orientale”, Italy.
  • BA (Hons) in Asian and African Languages and Cultures, University of Naples “L’Orientale”, Italy.

Professional Memberships

  • BRISMES – British Society for Middle Eastern Studies