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. Her debut work of narrative nonfiction, Republic of Dreams: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Struggles, and the Future of Iraqi Kurdistan, will be published by New York University Press in fall 2024 and is available to order starting January 2025 (https://nyupress.org/9781479823062/republic-of-dreams/). Based on more than 10 years of research and field work, it marries the recent political history of Kurdish Iraq with the extraordinary coming-of-age story of a boy named Peshawa, taking readers deep inside ordinary people’s efforts to rebuild their community and bring democracy to Iraqi Kurdistan after genocide and war. Other 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 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 has an MA from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London (1992) and a PhD from the University of Washington in Seattle (2001). In the spring of 2022 she completed her MFA degree at SF State 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.