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The Painful Return

Prisoners of War and Society in Iraq, 1988–2007

Ronen Zeidel

This is the first study of Iraqi POWs (prisoners of war) of the Iran-Iraq War and their relations with Iraqi society when they were absent and upon their return. The most significant factor affecting those relations was the exceptionally long duration of imprisonment: 8 to 10 years on average. By using novels and memoirs written by the prisoners reflecting on their prison experience, this article will try to unravel how Iraqi POWs perceived their ordeal and how they were influenced by dominant social values. Societal attitudes are also analysed through novels and short stories by some of Iraq's leading authors, in which the returning POW is the main subject.

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Paying the Price of War

Narratives of Trauma of Iraqi Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Jordan

Laure Bjawi-Levine

The occupation of Iraq and the ensuing sectarian violence have created an Iraqi refugee community, estimated at 700,000 to 1 million, which Jordan has hosted for several years. Residing for the most part in Amman's low-rent neighbourhoods, many Iraqis have overstayed their visas and live in fear of deportation. Marginalised both economically and socially, and forgotten by the U.S. and the international community, poverty-stricken Iraqi refugees and asylum seekers suffer not only from the traumatic experience of sectarian persecution and their escape from Iraq, but also from the stress and fatigue of their long-lasting transit to nowhere. Their narratives show a profound distress and a struggle for survival that is both psychological and economical, since their (il)legal status as 'guests' denies them the possibility of obtaining work permits.

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Living an Uncertain Future

Temporality, Uncertainty, and Well-Being among Iraqi Refugees in Egypt

Nadia El-Shaarawi

While displacement has always involved the refiguring of space, scholars of forced migration have recently begun to consider how temporality might be crucial to an understanding of displacement. In this article, I consider the interplay of temporal and spatial uncertainty in the experience of exile for Iraqi refugees in metropolitan Cairo. By examining how Iraqis understand displacement as uncertain and how this uncertainty is a cause of significant distress, I show that an attunement to temporality can help us to understand refugees' experiences of displacement. Iraqi refugees spoke of exile in Cairo as 'living in transit'—a condition in which disjuncture between their expectations about exile and its realities contributed to an altered experience of time in which the future became particularly uncertain and life was experienced as unstable. One solution sought by refugees is resettlement, a process that often renders the future even more uncertain, at least in the short term.

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Watching Saddam Fall

Assyrian Refugees in Sydney and the Imagining of a New Iraq

Greg Gow

This article brings together theoretical debates about transnationalism and the role of the imagination, and grounds these in a discussion of Iraqi-born Assyrian refugees who have recently settled in Sydney. The analysis is tied to the 2003 war and the ongoing U.S.-led occupation of Iraq. It provides rich ethnographic illustrations of the many and varied mediations through which Assyrians are relating to the conflict. Of special concern is the ‘imagination’ as an affective social dynamic. Tied to this is the idea of ‘transnational imaginaries’ that are produced through the intersection of specific embodied practices, implicit self-understandings, national frameworks, global flows, and transnational alliances.

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On “tribes” and bribes

“Iraq tribal study,” al-Anbar's awakening, and social science

Roberto J. González

The concept of the “tribe” has captured the imagination of military planners, who have been inspired partly by social scientists. Interest in tribes stems from events in Iraq's al-Anbar province, where the US military has co-opted Sunni “tribal” leaders. Some social scientists have capitalized on these developments by doing contract work for the Pentagon. For example, the “Iraq tribal study”—prepared by a private company consisting of anthropologists and political scientists among others—suggests employing colonial-era techniques (such as divide and conquer) for social control. It also advocates bribing local leaders, a method that has become part of the US military's pacification strategy. Such imperial policing techniques are likely to aggravate armed conflict between and among ethnic groups and religious sects. Observers report that the US strategy is creating a dangerous situation resembling the Lebanese civil war, raising ethical questions about social scientists' involvement in these processes.

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Facing the Future

The Artistic and Diasporic Afterlife of the Iran-Iraq War

Roxanne Varzi

How do the cultural and emotional after-effects of the Iran-Iraq War influence artistic production among Iranian artists living outside of Iran? How do Iranian diaspora self-portraits act as socio-political memoirs? This article addresses these questions by looking at some examples of diaspora artists who through their art somehow remain political 'subjects' of contemporary Iran, even as they grapple with the complexities of 'being away' - if that is ever really possible.

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Global privatized power

Heritage politics and private military contractors in Iraq

Maria Theresia Starzmann

The practice of archaeologists and other heritage specialists to embed with the US military in Iraq has received critical attention from anthropologists. Scholars have highlighted the dire consequences of such a partnership for cultural heritage protection by invoking the imperialist dimension of archaeological knowledge production. While critical of state power and increasingly of militarized para-state actors like the self-proclaimed Islamic State, these accounts typically eclipse other forms of collaboration with non-state organizations, such as private military and security companies (PMSCs). Focusing on the central role of private contractors in the context of heritage missions in Iraq since 2003, I demonstrate that the war economy's exploitative regime in regions marked by violent conflict is intensified by the growth of the military-industrial complex on a global scale. Drawing on data from interviews conducted with archaeologists working in the Middle East, it becomes clear how archaeology and heritage work prop up the coloniality of power by tying cultural to economic forms of control.

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Mary Kaldor

In this article, I describe, first, why the American view of the war they were fighting is better described as up-dated 'old war', then I analyse the reality on the ground as a 'new war', and, in the last section, I describe the possibilities for an alternative strategy to reduce the risks posed both to the Iraqi population and to the wider international community, first by Saddam Hussein before the war, and later by the 'new war' itself.

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Tom Rockmore

Now that the war in Iraq is over, or at least mainly finished, we can ask ourselves if it already has, or is likely later to meet its announced aims. It will be useful to introduce a distinction between reasons, which can be cited for the war, and its goals, which naturally tend to follow from announced (and unannounced) justifications for this conflict.

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‘You Have Car Insurance, We Have Tribes’

Negotiating Everyday Life in Basra and the Re-emergence of Tribalism

Hayder Al-Mohammad

This article explores the ways in which Basrans make their way in the world and examines how they negotiate certain situations that they encounter. One important means by which problems are dealt with in Basra is through recourse to one's tribe to mediate and resolve issues and sometimes even to protect an individual or family. I turn to ethnographic instances to highlight both the importance and capriciousness of tribes with respect to extending help when it is required. I then aim to show why tribalism has re-emerged within Iraq as a potent social and political force by reference to the shifting historical situation of the last 50 years.