About Nicole F Watts


(415) 405-2470



Additional Title: 

Department Chair


Political ScienceCollege of Liberal and Creative Arts


Humanities (HUM)



At SF State Since:



Nicole F. Watts is a professor in the Dept of Political Science, specializing in comparative politics, social movements, nationalism, and politics of the Middle East and North Africa. She's also a writer, traveler, Irish set dancer, ex-newspaper reporter, dog agility trainer/competitor, and plodding but committed runner.  Her research interests include protest and dissent, ethnopolitical and national movements, state-society relations, and Kurdish politics and mobilization, particularly in Iraq and Turkey.

Watts is the author and editor of two scholarly books and many chapters and articles. She is currently completing her debut work of narrative nonfiction, Peshawa and the Protesters in the Dreamland, about a Kurdish boy trying to defy enormous odds to make something of his life. Her most recent publications include a 2021 chapter, “Street Protest and Opposition in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq,” in The Cambridge History of the Kurds, “Re-Claiming Halabja,” in The Kurdish Question Revisited (2017) and “The Spring in Sulaimani: Kurdish Protest and Political Identities,” in Political Identities and Popular Uprisings in the Middle East (2016). She is also an occasional contributor to the Washington Post/Monkey Cage; one of her recent essays, on the Kurdish Independendence Referendum of 2017, can be read here.

Watts co-edited (with Elise Massicard) Negotiating Political Power in Turkey: Breaking up the Party (Routledge 2012), and her book Activists in Office: Kurdish Politics and Protest in Turkey was published by the University of Washington Press in 2010. The Turkish edition, Sandıkla Meydan Okumak: Tűrkiye’de Kűrtlerin Siyasi Yolculuğu (translated by Bilgesu Sűmer) was published in 2014 by Iletişim Publishing in Istanbul. Her work has appeared in a number of other refereed journals, including the International Journal of Middle East Studies; New Perspectives on Turkey; and Ethnopolitics.

She is a graduate of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London (1992) and the University of Washington in Seattle (2001). In the spring of 2022 she will complete her MFA degree at SFSU in Creative Writing (creative nonfiction track).

Watts makes regular visits to the Kurdistan region of Iraq and has presented papers at many conferences and centers around the world. She has served as Department Chair since 2016.