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Ivana Cosmano

LAHRI Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Areas of expertise
Sociocultural change; agency; youth and family dynamics; gender and masculinities; migration; social capital and cohesion; participatory research; Middle East and the Gulf region.
Clothworkers South Building, University of Leeds Campus
Arts, Humanities and Cultures
Leeds Arts and Humanities Research Institute

In 2022, I completed my PhD in Middle East Studies at the University of Leeds, funded by the prestigious LCS Award for Excellence. My thesis, entitled “Transforming Norms and Desires: Gendered Self-Fashioning Amongst Young, Educated Jordanians,” explored gender, agency, youth, and family dynamics in Jordan. The research scrutinised the agency of young women and men in challenging hegemonic gender norms and adopting more desirable gender roles and relationships. It brought to light significant sociocultural transformations within the country, ultimately unveiling the new value system embraced by young Jordanians. My work contributed to decolonising limited approaches to analysing social change in Middle Eastern societies by rethinking the theorization of Arab/Muslim people’s agency in relation to hegemonic structures and discourses.

Currently, in my role as a postdoctoral fellow at LAHRI, I am revising my PhD thesis into a monograph, publishing several peer-reviewed articles, and developing new research projects.

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 lead the Every One Every Day’s research initiative-the world’s first full-scale participatory ecosystem prototype. Employing a participatory culture approach, the project aims to pioneer a groundbreaking model for wholly inclusive and sustainable urban neighborhoods, with a focus on fostering social capital and cohesion.

Furthermore, I am spearheading a new research project that delves into the adverse effects of polarization on human societies. This undertaking involves designing innovative strategies to depolarize societies, fostering collaboration, cohesion, and connection within and between individuals and communities.

In my professional journey, I served as a lecturer and researcher in both the UK and Jordanian academic settings. Additionally, I made meaningful contributions to NGO projects, specifically addressing the Syrian refugee crisis in Jordan within the humanitarian sector.

At the University of Leeds, I have also 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 spans Sociology, Youth and Family Studies, and Gender and Masculinity Studies, with a focus on the Middle East and the Gulf region. I delve into the transformation of social norms and values, exploring the evolving desires and expectations of young generations. My work examines the reconceptualisation of gender roles and subjectivities, investigating shifting family dynamics and intergenerational conflict to gain insights into ongoing societal transformations. One of the primary objectives of my research is to offer evidence-based insights that can contribute to shaping and informing policymaking, ultimately empowering individuals and enhancing the well-being of families and communities.

Presently, I am actively engaged in two pioneering research undertakings centered on gender, migration, and family dynamics in the Gulf region. One project examines Arab youth migration dynamics at the intersection of gender and agency, shedding light on frequently overlooked factors that drive Arab youth migration to the UAE instead of the traditionally preferred Western migration destinations. The second project delves into the evolving concepts of family and marriage among the younger generations in Qatar, providing insights into emerging trends within this dynamic societal landscape.





  • “Unpacking education as migration driver among young, educated Jordanian women. A study on gender, agency, and sociocultural transformations in Jordan”, Mashriq & Mahjar: Journal of Middle East and North African Migration Studies, Special Issue on Children and Youth Migrants in Middle East and North African History, (under review).



  • “Young Jordanian Families in Dubai: Renegotiating Gender Roles and Expectations in Marriage”, in Gulf Families: Continuity and Change, Qatar University (under review).
  • “Forging the Self within the Relational Context of Arab Families: Agentive Capabilities and Practices of Young Jordanians in Reshaping Gender Norms and Subjectivities”, in Family and Social Change in the Global South: A Gendered Perspective, Emerald Group Publishing (under review).


  • “Transforming norms and desires: Gender, Agency, and Sociocultural Change in Jordan” [in preparation for Palgrave Macmillan].

Conference Papers (** Invited speaker)

  • “Young Jordanian Families in Dubai: Renegotiating Gender Roles and Expectations in Marriage”, 8th Annual International Interdisciplinary Conference of the Gulf Studies Center “The Family in the Gulf: Continuity and Change”, Qatar University, November 19-20, 2023.
  • “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, September 22-14, 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, July 4-6, 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, October 3-5, 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, August 14-16, 2019.
  • “Nuancing patriarchy: Jordanian educated youth and (changing?) notions of Masculinity”, BRISMES, Annual Conference, University of Leeds, UK, June 24-26, 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, June 6-7, 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 7-8, 2019.
  • “Feminist activism in academia: Rula Quawas struggle for women’s empowerment in Jordan”, PGR Conference, University of Leeds, UK, May 4, 2018.

Awards, funding, and fellowships

  • “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, 2020-2021.
  • “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, Amman, Jordan, Sep-Dec 2015.
  • “Arabic Language Scholarship for Professional Use”, Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Kuwait University, Kuwait, 2014-2015.


  • 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