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Iraqi Studies: Past, Present, and Future

Iraqi Studies: Past, Present, and Future published on

Iraqi Studies: Past, Present, and Future

28-29 February 2020

Columbia University

This two-day conference brings together a diverse group of established and emerging scholars working on the history of modern Iraq from the Ottoman period to the present to interrogate Iraqi studies; taking stock of its past, reflecting on the present, and looking towards its future. Studies of modern Iraq have grown qualitatively and quantitatively in recent years. There is now a critical mass of innovative scholars in the US, Europe, and the Middle East who work on Iraq and are exploring new lines of inquiry in a number of different directions. It is common to see Iraq-themed panels and round tables at international conferences. Given this volume of scholarly activity connected to modern Iraq, it is an opportune time to critically reflect on and examine Iraqi studies and its status as a burgeoning sub-field of Middle East Studies.

We aim to discuss research trends, to identify promising new questions and sources, to exchange experiences and insights, and to encourage networking across period-specializations and field boundaries. Each panel will comprise a discussant and several speakers. A keynote panel of senior scholars will critically reflect on the state of Iraqi studies. Confirmed speakers for the Keynote Panel: Dr. Dina Khoury (George Washington University); Dr. Orit Bashkin (University of Chicago); Dr. Eric Davis (Rutgers University); Dr. Sara Pursley (New York University).

Among the questions we seek to explore are: How do we define Iraqi studies? What various methodological approaches inform our study of Iraq? Is Iraqi studies an inherently nationalist endeavor? How do different frameworks support or break with nationalist conventions? How has Iraq’s recent turbulent history affected how scholars access sources to study the country, its geography, its people, its history, its literature, etc.? How can we move past the sectarian and ethnic narratives of understanding the Iraqi past and present?

Zeinab Azarbadegan (Columbia University)
Amnah Almukhtar (Columbia University)
Natasha Pesaran (Columbia University)

Department of History
Center for International History
Center for the Study of Muslim Societies
Ottoman and Turkish Studies Seminar
Department of Art History and Archaeology

In order to attend and to be added to our mailing list for updates related to the conference, please register here

Preliminary Program


9:00-9:30 Registration and Opening Remarks  

9:30- 11:00      Panel 1: Methods and Approaches: Writing Iraqi History 

11:00-11:15     Break

11:15-12:45     Panel 2: The Iraqi Nahda

12:45-13:30     Lunch

13:30-15:00     Panel 3: State Formation and Resistance 

15:00-15:15     Break

15:15-16:45     Panel 4: Beyond Sectarianism 

16:45-17:00     Break

17:00-18:30     Keynote Panel: Prof. Orit Bashkin (U. of Chicago), Prof. Dina Rizk 

Khoury (George Washington U.), Prof. Eric Davis (Rutgers U.), Prof. Sara Pursley (NYU)


10:00- 11:30      Panel 5: State Power and Natural Resource Development 

11:30-11:45     Break

11:45-13:15     Panel 6: Formation of Iraqi Identities and Social Classes 

13:15-14:00     Lunch

14:00-15:30     Panel 7: Beyond the Nation: Iraq in Global Perspective  

15:30-15:45     Break

15:45-17:15     Roundtable

Methods and Approaches: Writing Iraqi History

Wisam Alshaibi (UCLA), The Dark Archive of the Wars in Iraq: Introducing the Kanan Makiya Papers

Nadje Al-Ali (Brown U.), Feminist Approaches to Iraqi Studies: Beyond an add-women- and- stir approach

Sara Farhan (American U. of Sharjah), Towards a History of Medicine of Modern Iraq

Orcun Okan (Columbia U.), Reflections on the Use of First-Person Narratives for Writing Histories of Modern Iraq

The Iraqi Nahda

Annie Greene (College of William and Mary), The Nahda in Iraq

Camille Cole (Yale U.), “The Last Vestiges of Arab Independence”: Khaz‘al Khan and the Making of Gilded Age Basra and Khuzestān, 1897-1914

Kevin Michael Jones (U. of Georgia), Baghdad Days and Cairo Nights: The Arab Nahda and the Construction of Iraqi National Identity

Gabriel Young (NYU), On India’s Path: Transnational Histories of Iraq and the Political Economy of ʿAbd al-Fattah Ibrahim

State Formation and Resistance

Mélisande Genat (Stanford U.), State Justice and Tribal Law in the Sinjar Region (1932-1958)

Carl Shook (Loyola U., Chicago), Imperialist Invention or Uncertain Enterprise? Understanding British power through the political geography of Iraq

Huma Gupta (MIT),  The Architecture of Dispossession and State-Building in Iraq

Amir Taha (Utrecht U.), War and Insurgency in Southern Iraq: The Case Study of Shinafiyah, 1979-1991

Beyond Sectarianism

Michael Degerald (Lund U., Sweden), Race in modern Iraqi History: Questioning the not-so-sectarian dimensions of social tensions

Christopher Cooper-Davies (Cambridge U.), National Integration and Anti-Sectarianism among Shi’i Reformist Intellectuals in Hashemite Iraq         

Joseph Edward Kotinsly (U. of Texas at Austin), The Politics of Suffering: An examination of the Iraqi Shi’i Opposition Movement’s response to the 1991 March Uprisings 

Jinan Al-Habbal (LSE), The Evolution of the Iraqi Army

State Power and Natural Resource Development 

Dale Stahl (Free U. of Berlin), The Third River: Oil, Water, and the Iraqi Development Board

Tiffany Floyd (Columbia U.), “He who saw the Deep:” Petromodernity, Deep Time, and Dia Al-Azzawi as Gilgamesh

Isacar Bolaños (Loyola U., Maryland), The French Connection: Informal Empire, Environmental Management, and Foreign Technocrats in Hamidian Iraq

Şehnaz İyibaş (Koç U., Istanbul), Irrigation in the Late Ottoman Iraq: The Hindiya Barrage 1890-1914

Formation of Iraqi Identities and Social Classes

Hala Fattah (Independent Scholar), The Invisible Iraqis: Georgian, Daghistani and Circassian Families in Early Twentieth Century Iraq

Pelle Valentin Olsen (U. of Chicago), Iraqi Jews and the Production and Consumption of Leisure

Andrew Alger (CUNY), Clinical Behavior: Institutionalized Medicine and Urban Space in Baghdad, 1917 – 1958

Zachary Sheldon (U. of Chicago), The Cosmopolitan National: Development and Crisis in the Iraqi Diaspora

Beyond the Nation: Iraq in Global Perspective

Esmat Elhalaby (NYU Abu Dhabi), India in Iraq/Iraq in India

Noga Efrati (Open University of Israel),, Revisiting early women’s activism in Iraq: a transnational perspective

Hilary Falb Kalisman (U. of Colorado, Boulder), Global Iraq: Gender, Education and Travel

Kate Tietzen (Kansas State U.), Iraqis in Russia: The Organizations of Iraqis Outside the Region-Moscow in the 1990