World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010

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Security and the Politics of National Culture in Contemporary Iraq (238) - Panel
 

· Date: WED 21, 2.30-4.30 pm

· Institution: University of Michigan (USA)

· Organizer: Juan Cole

· Sponsored by: International Association of Contemporary Iraqi Studies (IACIS)

· Language: English

· Description: This panel on modern and contemporary Iraq examines issues in national security as it is reflected in cultural and political processes. It looks at internal border conflicts and nation-making, at the interaction with global hegemons ("empire") with regard to security, at the fragility of national symbols such as museums, at the potential security deficits of the weak parliamentary system imposed by the US in 2003 and after, and at recent elections as internal state-making and geopolitics.

With this broader perspective in mind, this panel asks how citizenship in Iraq has been constructed in the country’s modern history. Since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Iraq has experienced three main political regimes (British, Ba’athist, Anglo-American) that have institutionalized radically different conceptions of citizenship. In his framework of the “politics of citizenship” Butenschn (2000) directs us to think about ways that citizenship is tethered to specific state-ideas and the formation of particular political regimes. Thus, one of the goals of this panel is to provide a historically comparative perspective on Iraqi citizenship. Furthermore, Iraqi citizenship cannot be removed from its regional (Arab/Islamic) and historical (postcolonial) experiences. A second aim of the panel, then, is to provide a comparative analysis of Iraqi citizenship. Key comparative questions asked by this panel include: How have sectarian identities been enshrined in constitutions? How is citizenship gendered in different countries? What role does religion play in the formation of constitutions? How do ethnic or religious leaders mediate between state and citizen? Finally, the panel will offer critical analysis of the Iraqi constitution enacted in the aftermath of the Anglo-American invasion and occupation. Specific emphasis will be placed on the role of Iraqi elections after 2003. This focus will illuminate how the constitution has reconstituted citizenship and political subjectivity, in part by situating elections and the parliamentary system as a site of inter-communal politics.

Chair: Juan Cole (University of Michigan)

Paper presenter: Juan Cole (University of Michigan), “The 2010 Parliamentary Elections in Iraq, the US Withdrawal and Regime Stability”
This paper examines the outcome of the 2010 parliamentary elections in Iraq and the process of coalition formation in their aftermath. It looks at ethnic and political dynamics in the formation of new alliances, as well as the policy decisions that forestalled certain combinations. The attempt of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to remain in office by splitting the Shiite vote and striving for his State of Law coalition to emerge as the single largest bloc is examined with regard to its effectiveness. The remarkable swing of the Sunni Arab vote to the secular, nationalist Iraqiya slate headed by former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi is analyzed. The challenge posed to the Kurdistan Alliance by the Gorran or 'Change' list is looked at for its implications for Kurdish political unity. The weakening of Iran's main ally, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, is considered for its likely effect on Iran-Iraq relations and Iran's new role as regional hegemony. The reemergence of the Shiite nativist Sadrist movement and its demand for an immediate US withdrawal from Iraq, with some 40 seats at stake, is analyzed for its implications for geopolitics. The implication of the election for the US timetable for withdrawal from Iraq and Washington's position in Gulf geopolitics is examined at length.

Paper presenter: Nabil Al-Tikriti (University of Mary Washington), “Shifting Borders and State Prerogatives: Iraqi Provincial Border Changes from the Ottoman Era to Today”
In this paper, I intend to trace and analyze reasons behind changes made to provincial borders down to the district level in what is today Iraq. Working in reverse chronological order, I plan to address the nature of longer term regional identities, patterns inherent in Iraqi administrative geography, strategies for maintaining effective sovereignty over certain contested areas, and justifications for notable “reforms” made to district boundaries over the years. I hope that results of this research will contribute to policy debates concerning Iraq’s disputed territories and electoral administration.
In the first section of the paper I will examine governorate border and name changes made by the Iraqi government in the mid-1970s. During this initiative, four provinces were added to the previous fourteen, and most governorates received new names concurrent with an Arab Nationalist conception of Iraqi history and geography. In order to make space for the four new governorates, Baghdad, Mosul, Najaf, Kirkuk, and Diwaniya lost territory. While such changes can be seen as simply preserving the sectarian superiority of Iraq’s ruling parties at the time, they can also be seen as efforts to neutralize sectarian identities for a centralized vision of nationalistic unity.
In the second section of the paper I will analyze the process whereby British and Hashemite officials outlined the original fourteen liwas of modern Iraq. At this point, I hope to discover how much the geographic legacy inherited from Ottoman administration was altered, and what reasoning lay behind any changes made at that time.
In the final section, I shall briefly survey major changes made in provincial borders during the four centuries of Ottoman rule, and what such adjustments implied for the various provincial identities posited for these lands. This concluding section shall address contemporary geographic perceptions – and current coherence – of the region currently referred to as “Iraq.” This final section will also touch upon the historical logic of either projecting current geographic perceptions back in time or presuming timeless provincial identities lasting several thousand years.
Following a brief discussion of what such provincial borders say about Iraq’s national identity today, the paper will conclude with certain thoughts concerning the repercussions of Iraqi provincial identities for policymakers today.

Paper presenter: Magnus T. Bernhardsson (Williams College, USA), “Iraqi Fragments: The Destruction of the Iraqi National Museum”
It set the tone of things to come. Over a few days in mid April 2003, following the American occupation of Baghdad, looters ransacked the storied Iraqi National Museum. In a matter of a few hours, thousands of valuable archaeological and artistic artefacts disappeared from the Museum’s historic collection. The Museum was left in shambles. What was once a showcase of Iraq’s cultural heritage and a demonstration of Iraq’s incredible artistic, economic, and cultural contributions to the human odyssey, was now rubble, fragmented and in ruins. The fate of the Iraqi National Museum, therefore, symbolizes the fate of the Iraqi nation in the first decade of the 21st century. As the Iraqi government and international community has begun to pick up the pieces and retrieve and reclaim some of the lost objects, so too have attempts to reconstruct and rebuild the political community of Iraq. The fate of the Iraqi National Museum and that of the Iraqi people is therefore intrinsically tied.
This paper will consider the 2003 looting of the Museum and its aftermath. It will first offer a historical account of the development of the Museum and evaluate its political and cultural role in twentieth century Iraqi society. Then, it will discuss the 2003 looting of the Museum and the related destruction of other cultural institutions. Finally, it will assess the developments of the last five years in reclaiming the stolen objects and the attempts to re-open the Museum. Methodologically, the approach will be historical. The first part of the paper will rely on my previous work on the Iraqi Museum. The second part of the paper will utilize oral histories and various NGOs, journalistic, and governmental reports on the reconstruction of Iraqi cultural institutions.

Paper presenter: Monica Ingber (Keele University), “Chthonic Security and the Militant/Multitude Problematic”
This panel looks at contemporary Iraq through the prism of security. What is the relationship between violence and Empire as it pertains to the achievement of security in the Iraqi State? Under Ba’th Party rule, Iraqi State sovereignty was based on chthonic security, which refers to the dark side of security; the inside through which sacrifice and violence associated with insecurity renders security possible. The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 resulted in the removal of Saddam Hussein as head of State, the dismantling of Iraq’s formal institutions, the regime, and the political elite, in an effort to replace chthonic security with a combination of human and State centered security which would be initiated through the creation of a democratic Iraq. This has left not only a leadership void within the State, but it has also served to orient Iraqis towards other sources of security and protection. In addition to this, the globalized world itself has procured a development in the nature of warfare and insurgency, as well as a re-definition of the figure of the ‘militant’. This paper will illustrate that Hardt and Negri’s notion of Empire and the multitude enables a greater understanding of the relationship between the globalized world and the Iraqi insurgency; however, it will be argued that this concept of Empire is unable to account for the existing power void to be filled due to the non-dialectical approach inherent in their theory. Instead, this paper will argue that regime change in Iraq has awakened a power struggle within what Charles Tripp has aptly termed the ‘shadow state’: this requires the negotiation of a particular dialectical relationship in order to recreate security given that the violence taking place is of an initiatory nature.