Are you a TAARII member? If so, you have probably been expecting your fall newsletter, issue 08-02. However, to better reflect TAARII’s activities and sponsored events, the newsletter schedule has changed. Instead of the fall issue hitting mailboxes in the same fall, the issue will reflect the activities from the fall. Therefore, the fall 2013 newsletter will be in mailboxes in early spring 2014 and will report on all of the conferences, activities, and other events of fall 2013. The spring newsletter will similarly shift; it will be in members’ mailboxes by early fall and will reflect activities of the spring. As always, our newsletters will also contain contributions from current/former fellows and others working to further the field of Iraqi/Mesopotamian studies.
If you would like to contribute to the TAARII newsletter (and we hope you will), please take note of the new submission deadlines:
The deadline for submission to the spring newsletters is APRIL 1 of each year.
The deadline for submission to the fall newsletters is NOVEMBER 1 of each year.
To submit an article to the newsletter (or to the blog!), please email email@example.com. To get more information about becoming a TAARII member in order to receive hard copies of the newsletter, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To view PDFs of previous newsletters, visit our website.
The University of Washington has offered Middle East language and area courses for more than 100 years. With over sixty faculty members conducting research and teaching on the Middle East, the institution has broad and deep coverage of Middle East languages and area studies. In addition to the modern languages of the Middle East, the University offers courses in ancient Middle East languages including Akkadian and Aramaic. Middle East coursework ranges across the departments of Anthropology, Art History, Communications, Comparative Religion, Economics, English, Ethnomusicology, Geography, Global Health, History, Information, International Studies, Jewish Studies, Law, Linguistics, Music, Near East Languages and Civilization, Oceanography, Political Science, Sociology, Social Work, and Women Studies. The University of Washington offers area-specific Middle East degree programs as follows: (1) BA and MA degrees in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization; (2) undergraduate minor and MA degree in the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies; (3) Ph.D. degree in the Interdisciplinary Near and Middle East Program; and (4) Middle East-focused BA, MA, and Ph.D. degrees in disciplinary departments.
Prominent among University of Washington faculty who work on Iraq are:
Recent graduate student research on Iraq has included work on such diverse topics as: state responses to Iraqi refugees; Muqtada al Sadr and the competition for power in Iraq; Turkish foreign policy and the Iraq war; social networks in nineteenth-century Iraq; and disease and medicine in Iraq.
TAARII funded two research trips to Jordan (2007) and Syria (2009) to conduct interviews with Iraqi veterans of the Iran-Iraq and the First Gulf wars. These interviews formed part of the research for my book, Iraq in Wartime, Soldiering, Martyrdom and Remembrance (Cambridge University Press, 2013). In Amman, TAARII’s Senior Research Fellow, Lucine Taminian, was very helpful in providing contacts and facilitating my research. TAARII runs the Iraqi Oral History Project, which aims at collecting the testimonies of Iraqis who have lived through the momentous events of the twentieth century. Lucine plays an important part in that project and she was ready with advice as to what to expect. The interviews I conducted were crucial for the argument I made in the book and in giving me an understanding of the centrality of the Iraq-Iran War in shaping the sensibility of a whole generation in Iraq. It also allowed me to understand the impact of violence on the lives of Iraqis in a manner that would have been difficult to comprehend had I not had a chance to conduct these interviews. Please check this link for more on the book and a sample interview: http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/10106/new-texts-out-now_dina-rizk-khoury-iraq-in-wartime
On March 6, 2013, Amy Gansell gave a lecture entitled, “Concepts of Feminine Beauty and Adornment in Ancient Mesopotamia Illuminated through Near Eastern Cultural Practices of the Twentieth-century to the Present,” for the Department of Social Science & Cultural Studies at the Pratt Institute. Professor Gansell was a Visiting Assistant Professor in Pratt’s History of Art and Design department. Her talk showed images of her project on queenly adornment. A video of her lecture is available here.
The University of Toronto has become a new institutional member of TAARII due to its active Mesopotamian and modern Middle East studies programs and commitment to the American Overseas Research Centers.
The University of Toronto has a strong core of faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, courses, and programs in ancient and Middle Eastern Islamic Studies. It is especially strong in ancient, medieval, and modern Iraq. The library holdings on Iraq are comprehensive, and the University has a history of active fieldwork in Iraq.
Its relevant faculty include: Clemens Reichel (Mesopotamian Archaeology), Amir Harrak (Aramaic and Syriac), Paul-Alain Beaulieu (Assyriology), James Reilly (Modern Middle East), Ed Keall (Islamic Archaeology), Doug Frayne (Sumerology), Victor Ostapchuk (Ottoman History).
“Iraq 10 Years On: Intervention, Occupation, Withdrawal and Beyond”
Wael Elhabrouk and Benjamin Isakhan
To mark the tenth anniversary of the US-led war in Iraq, the Centre for Citizenship and Globalization at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, hosted the symposium “Iraq 10 Years On: Intervention, Occupation, Withdrawal and Beyond” from 14–15 March 2013. The symposium was convened by Dr. Benjamin Isakhan and sponsored by the Middle East Institute at the National University of Singapore, and the Australian Middle East Research Forum at Deakin University. The event provided a valuable opportunity to engage with diplomatic staff, politicians, academics, business leaders, policy-makers, Iraqi expatriates, media, and NGOs concerned with the Iraq War. As is detailed below, the two days of the symposium covered distinct aspects of the Iraq war with Day 1 focusing on Australia’s role in the war and Day 2 focused on the legacy of the war for Iraq today.
Day 1 – Australia’s Role in Iraq
Following an official welcome and introduction from Dr. Isakhan, the “Iraq 10 Years On” symposium got underway with a presentation from Her Excellency Ms. Lyndall Sachs, Australian Ambassador to the Republic of Iraq in Baghdad. Ms. Sachs gave some insightful comments on the developments in Australian-Iraqi relations following the fall of Saddam Hussein. She also talked about expected future co-operation between Australia and Iraq and her aim to see Australian-Iraqi relations strengthened over the coming decade. The Ambassador also reiterated the Australian government’s commitment to supporting Iraq’s national development and the country’s progress towards strengthening its democratic institutions.
Following Ms. Sachs’ statement, the late morning presentations brought the themes of human rights, social justice, and national responsibility, with regard to the intervention in Iraq, to the fore. These presentations also tended to highlight Australia’s role in the Iraq War. For example, the infamous case of the torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison was addressed by human rights and social justice advocate Ms. Aloysia Brooks (University of Sydney). During her presentation, Ms. Brooks argued that little has been publicised about the alleged involvement of Australian personnel in attempts to cover-up what happened in Abu Ghraib. She argued that evidence had emerged linking Australian personnel to attempts of hindering investigations conducted by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The presentation constituted, through its topic, an exploration of the need for accountability and recognition of mistakes made during the occupation, particularly on Australia’s behalf.
A highlight presentation on the first day of the conference was presented by Mr. Paul Barrat, President of the Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry and former Secretary of the Department of Defence and Deputy Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Following the theme of Australia’s role in the Iraq War, Mr. Barrat’s presentation focused on the need for a better understanding of how and why the Australian government chose to back the U.S. in its invasion and later occupation of Iraq. Ten years after the Iraq War it is apparent that as a consequence of the Iraq War and its aftermath many of the countries that had been militarily engaged in Iraq are forced to reflect upon the mechanisms used to enable the war to happen in the first place. Such reflections are of course essential in order to apply past lessons to future scenarios involving military intervention abroad. Mr. Barrat’s objective is to shed light on the state of the decision-making process within the Australian government and to promote measures to help make this process more inclusive of the Australian public.
Day 2 – The Legacy of the Iraq War
The second day of the conference saw a change in focus with our distinguished international speakers addressing less the role of Australia in the war and more the current situation in Iraq. The day began with a keynote presentation by Professor Liam Anderson (Wright State University) on the contentious topic of Iraq’s constitutional gridlock and power-based politics. Professor Anderson drew on the issue of Kurdish autonomy as a key example of contentious political disputes in Iraq worsened by the absence of effective judicial authority and key institutions. The Kurds, who were instrumental in drafting Iraq’s 2005 constitution, are seeking a state where the federal government is weak relative to regional authorities. It is such a system, which Professor Anderson argues is depicted by the Iraqi constitution, that consequently places the management of oil and gas resources in the hands of regional governments. The issue, as noted in the presentation, is the fact that a significant number of Arab (Sunni and Shi’a) nationalists prefer “a unitary system of government with a strong central government, and national control over the exploitation of oil and gas reserves.” Consequently, Professor Anderson argues for the need for an Iraqi “constitutional settlement that respects Kurdish autonomy while facilitating Arab (Sunni/Shi’a) reconciliation.”
In the afternoon, three papers were presented by some of the most well-respected senior academics within the field of Arab and Middle East political studies, Professor Michael C. Hudson (Director, Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore), Professor Peter Sluglett (MEI, NUS) and Professor Amin Saikal (Director, Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, Australian National University). In his address, Professor Hudson touched on both the history and future of Iraqi-U.S. relations. Professor Hudson’s paper laid the historical groundwork by reviewing American attempts at helping Iraq during the Iran–Iraq war and how this changed dramatically following Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. The presentation also addressed how neo-conservatism influenced the White House’s decision to seek regime change in Iraq following 9/11. Finally, Professor Hudson’s paper explored some of the questions which arose more recently with regard to the impact of the Iraq War: Did Bush’s “freedom agenda” inspire the eruption of the Arab Spring? Was Iran’s influence in the Persian Gulf strengthened by the U.S.’s intervention in Iraq? The presentation concluded with an argument from Professor Hudson asserting that the U.S.’s strategic blunder in Iraq cost it much influence both in the region and globally and only contributed to hastening its decline as a global superpower.
Continuing with the theme of American miscalculations and strategic blunders when it comes to Iraq, Professor Sluglett explored the failure of U.S. policy towards Iraq. Professor Sluglett pointed out how misconceptions contributed to the development of inadequate U.S. policy towards Iraq both in the period “preceding and immediately following the invasion.” The presentation insightfully drew the attention of the audience to the realities of change that Iraqi society witnessed during Saddam Hussein’s final decade in power. The issue for the U.S. and its allies, argued Professor Sluglett, was that these changes were misconceived and misunderstood. Consequently, the U.S. and its allies, going into Iraq, were unaware of the overwhelming monopoly of ‘religious politics’ within Iraqi political discourse and interactions. Evidently, as Professor Sluglett noted, this caught many by surprise not least amongst them U.S. policy-makers as well as long-time Iraqi exiles who backed the invasion.
Finally, Professor Saikal, explored the chasm that exists between advocates of self-democratisation and proponents of induced democratisation. Professor Saikal rightly pointed out the strong support that exists for both views; does democratisation effectively succeed only when it is a product of “indigenous processes”? Or, is outside intervention (both military and otherwise) a valid, and possibly necessary, form of inducing democratisation in an authoritative state? Prof Saikal’s presentation evaluated the case of Iraq in the context of the aforementioned wider debate in order to shed light on where Iraq is located along the democratising spectrum and whether “interventionist democratisation has worked.”
Overall, the conference allowed a number of key figures in the field to address some pressing and contentious questions and debates surrounding the military intervention in Iraq and its aftermath. Inevitably however, many more questions were also raised throughout the course of the two-day long conference. Chief amongst those were: What is next for Iraq? And, what steps ought to be taken by both Iraqis and Western power to ensure Iraq’s development towards stability, unity, and democracy. Likely, only with time will such questions be conclusively addressed. Nonetheless, the conference provided a valuable opportunity for those interested in the events witnessed in Iraq over the past decade to engage with the experts and review the past while contemplating some of the possibilities for the future.
The University of Chicago has had a commitment to research and teaching in the Near East since its founding in 1892. Its first president was a Biblical scholar, and among its early faculty hires were F. R. Harper, an Assyriologist and James Henry Breasted, an Egyptologist. The university’s first excavations were at Bismaya (ancient Adab) in Iraq in 1904–05. The founding of the Oriental Institute by Breasted in 1919 marked a great increase in the exploration and elucidation of the ancient fields, and the Institute still maintains numerous archaeological, surface survey, and epigraphic investigations, as well as dictionary-writing, philology, history, remote sensing, and other long-term projects at home.
Most of the faculty at the Oriental Institute teach in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, which also encompasses the Medieval and Modern Near East, with major interest in Iraq. Students can obtain B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees. The Center for Middle Eastern Studies offers an M.A. in Medieval and Modern studies, and has recently taken on the administration of a 2-year M.A. program for the ancient fields.
Prominent among the faculty and staff involved in ancient and modern Iraq are:
McGuire Gibson, Professor of Mesopotamian Archaeology
Gil Stein, Professor of Prehistory and Urbanization
Abbas Alizadeh, specialist in prehistory and the Uruk period
Scott Branting, remote sensing, agent-based modeling
Matthew Stolper, Assyriologist
Walter Farber, Assyriologist
Chris Woods, Sumerologist
Fred Donner, Islamic History, especially Iraq
Donald Whitcomb, Islamic Archaeology
John Woods, History, especially Mongols
Orit Bashkin, Modern Middle Eastern History, especially Iraq
Hilary Falb has just published an article on education in Iraq and Palestine in Volume 3, No 2, 2013 of the Kufa Review. It is a special issue on education in Iraq sponsored by the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. Click here to view the issue.
“Pedagogical Paradox: Education and Internalization in the Mandates for Palestine and Mesopotamia (Iraq)”
Abstract: Education in the Middle East during the interwar period offers a window into international educational trends as well as the nuanced ways colonial educational policies and local endeavors
shaped which pedagogical methods, tactics, subjects and standards became accepted on a global scale. Schooling in the Mandate for Palestine and in the Kingdom of Iraq during the late
1930s demonstrates two different ways in which educational policies become international. On the one hand, policies can be “de-nationalized” or separated from the nation which originated these methods. Those who experience this education believe it to be universally valid. On the other hand, countries developing their own systems of public education may pick and choose policies from several international sources and then combine them, creating a uniquely national system of education.