The flyer is also available as a PDF: Flyer2014
I participated in the Fourth World Congress for Middle East Studies (WOCMES) held at Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara, Turkey, August 18–22, 2014. The congress was organized by the Department of Political Science and Public Administration and the Graduate Program of Middle East Studies at METU, in collaboration with the Turkish Social Sciences Association.
After the highly successful experiences of the three previous WOCMES meetings held in Mainz, Germany, in 2002, Amman, Jordan, in 2006, and Barcelona, Spain, in 2010, WOCMES Ankara brought this unique event to the Eastern Mediterranean region.
WOCMES 2014 was attended by a remarkable number of very distinguished academics, policymakers, and researchers, who represented a wide variety of universities and institutions from 74 countries. The scientific program of the Congress, with its 400 academic sessions, meetings, exhibits, roundtables, and poster presentations, was impressive. It was designed to facilitate exchange and strengthen networking among more than 1,500 experts from all branches of the humanities, social sciences and related disciplines, and from all over the world.
The main disciplines at the congress were: Anthropology, Archeology, Architecture, Economics, Education, Fine Arts, Gender Studies Geography, History, International Relations, Journalism, Labor Studies, Law and Legal Studies, Literature and Linguistics, Environmental Studies, Peace and Conflict Resolution, Philosophy, Political Science, Religious Studies, Social Psychology, and Sociology.
Topics covered in the academic presentations focused on: Ancient Middle East, Islam in the Past and Present, Christian and Biblical Studies, Urban Studies and Space, Water and the Environment, Economics and Politics, Women and Gender Studies, Normative Phenomena and Legal Research, Migration Studies, Media and Cultural Studies, Linguistics and Literature, Nationality, and Identities and Ethnicity.
On August 20, 2014, I participated in the panel, “Iraq: Human Costs of Occupation,” which was organized by the International Association of Middle Eastern Studies (IAMES) in cooperation with the International Association of Contemporary Iraqi Studies (IACIS). Two other scholars joined me in the panel: Dr. Mundher Al-Adhami (Iraq) and Dirk Adriaensens (Belgium), as well as the moderator Prof. Raymond Baker (USA). My presentation was titled: “The Power of Political Islamization in Iraq, the Case of Ending the Civil State: Psycho-Political Perspective.”
In my presentation, I argued that The American Coalition Provisional Authority helped leaders of religious groups and parties to dominate the political scene. Since the occupation of Iraq in 2003, Islamic political parties have been trying to reproduce the state and society in accordance with their sectarian views. Their attempts to Islamize Iraqi society go against the deep-rooted secularist trends that had dominated the public life since the establishment of the nation-state in the 1920s. Based on my six years of research on political Islam, I concluded that the psychological basis of political Islam includes: a phobia of freedoms; hostility to beauty; denial of the basic facts of human nature; women’s complex (women’s erotic nature and their inferiority to men); a wish to impose ignorance on society; a glorification of the past and fear of the future; an instinctive trend toward money, power, and sex; and hatred of national identity. These undeclared motives of political Islam that dominate public life in Iraq have produced a number of negative social phenomena, including: fighting the social secularist trends in Iraq; spreading false religiosity; immortalization of hostage society; strengthening the masochistic trend in Iraqi mentality; undermining the Baghdadi identity; academic corruption in the Iraqi universities; targeting and terrorizing of minorities; and Green Zone psychology.
The issues that my presentation raised focused on: my research methodology, the role of The American Coalition Provisional Authority in providing the opportunity for political Islam to dominate public life, and whether the psychological basis of political Islam I listed above can be generalized to political Islam in other countries in the Middle East.
WOCMES 2014 was a real and genuine opportunity for me to update my viewpoints regarding the issues and crises of the Middle East from multiple academic perspectives. It gave me the chance to build networks with many scholars from several countries. Such an academic event is a true occasion to strengthen the values of peace and tolerance, as long as the hundreds of participants can contribute to shaping their countries’ policies towards the Middle East.
Thanks so much to TAARII for giving me the chance to participate in WOCMES 2014. This support helped me to present a theoretical paper regarding the relation between political Islam and society in Iraq, as well as to attend numerous sessions and meetings of the Congress.
Faris Nadhmi, Ph.D., Social Psychology. Nadhmi is a writer, researcher, and lecturer in political, social, and personality psychology at Baghdad University, Salahaddin University-Erbil. He can be contacted by email: email@example.com
Louis Yako, PhD student of Cultural Anthropology, Duke University
My multi-sited ethnography on Iraqi academics in exile took me to Jordan this summer, where I had a golden opportunity to meet with a good number of academics, most of whom were forced to leave Iraq after 2003. In the nearly 8 weeks I spent in Amman, I was fortunate to interview, talk with, visit with, and closely observe Iraqi academics in their work place at different universities as well as at their homes and at different cafés and restaurants to enjoy some deep conversations about their rich experiences both inside Iraq and in exile.
Jordan is a beautiful country with a fantastic weather, especially in the evenings. A lot of things here reminded me of home in Iraq: the shops, the taste of peaches and apricots, the yogurt made from sheep’s milk, the vegetation, the wild cats in the streets, and the hustle and bustle of the old bazaar at the center of the city “Wast Al Balad.” Also reminiscent of home were the painful stories, the memories, and the wounds my interlocutors carry on their backs like a turtle who takes her shell with her everywhere she goes.
As I have come to learn, several waves of Iraqi refugees and immigrants have come to Jordan over the last couple of decades, each wave had some specific characteristics and motives for leaving Iraq. For example, the wave of Iraqis who came in the 1990s came mostly for political reasons, or for economic reasons to escape the harsh UN sanctions; whereas those who came after 2003, which include most of my interlocutors, came mostly to escape war, violence, debaathification, death threats, and sectarianism.
Besides talking to Iraqi academics, I met with Geraldine Chatelard who has been researching Iraq for many years and whose passion and insights about Iraq are quite useful. I also met some Jordanian professors who further enriched my understanding about their own experiences working at public and private Jordanian universities. Talking to these professors was helpful because it provided me with a multi-dimensional vision about the conditions of their Iraqi counterparts at the same universities.
Many important themes surfaced during my time in Jordan. One of the major issues that came up over and over again is that while academics here have more chances to find jobs, they are all under contracts. This means they can only stay in the country so long as their contracts are not expired. I find this quite interesting if we think of it in terms of biopolitics and those who are allowed to live and those who are left to die. I found that these lives under contracts with no citizenship or rights beyond these contracts totally redefine the meaning of home and exile. On the one hand, you are safe and make good money, but on the other hand, all of this can end at a blink of an eye. In this sense, feeling home under such conditions becomes akin to building a home amid an earthquake. In contrast to my last summer’s research in the UK, while the exiled Iraqi professors in the UK are able to attain a status of a British subject and have equal rights, they struggled immensely with finding jobs — even jobs outside of academia — in order to survive. I think these two cases provide rich materials for analysis in my work.
The transition from an Iraqi public, centralized higher education system to a corporate, for-profit private universities, were most interlocutors currently teach, is another important issue that emerged from the fieldwork. Other issues include the interlocutors’ memories about teaching under the former regime, their experiences following the US occupation of Iraq, the violence, and the death threats many of them received to leave their positions in Iraqi universities.
Last but not least, almost all interlocutors, at one time or another, had tears rolling down their faces as we talked about their definitions of “home” and “exile.” As time went by, I discovered that the way I had unintentionally worded one question particularly made many of them tear up. The question I asked everyone: what has exile given you and what has it taken away from you? Tears often came down as they started talking about the things exile had taken away from them. The current turmoil in Iraq has made things much harder for them. As in the words of one interlocutor: “It was hard enough to be exiled, but with the current turmoil, Iraq as we know it may well end. If this happens, then we are not only exiled; we are exiled from a place that won’t even exist anymore! Can you imagine the pain?” Thinking about these words, I am left wondering if at the end of the day, time in exile is simply like “Time” itself: it is a thief that takes away much more than it will ever give back. However, some interlocutors also expressed hope about their current lives and the future. Indeed, most of them agree that being in Jordan provides much solace, not only because of the many similarities in culture, values, and language, but also because Jordan’s geographical location allows them to, in the words of one professor, “keep an eye on Iraq and the people we love.”
Overall, my summer research was incredibly rich thanks to the support I received from TAARII that was kind enough to allow me to rent their centrally-located apartment, connected me with a number of Iraqi professors in Jordan, and provided me with all sorts of information needed to make my time in Jordan smooth and productive. I am especially grateful for TAARII’s Resident Director and Senior Scholar, Lucine Taminian, who was very kind, approachable and friendly. Lucine’s experience on the Middle East and her interest in my project were a great source of encouragement and I am fortunate for all the beautiful conversations we had that provided me with invaluable insights as I carry on this research.
In May 2014, TAARII’s Resident Director, Lucine Taminian, who oversees TAARII’s Iraqi Oral History Project, participated in the Memory and Action Workshop in Tunisia organized by the Coalition of Sites of Conscience. The Coalition is a global network of more than 185 institutions, including museums and memorial sites (old prisons, mass killing sites, sites of torture, etc.), which promotes the use of oral history to connect memory to action. The workshop was organized in partnership with the Tunisian Site of Conscience, the Association for Justice and Rehabilitation, and the Mediterranean Forum for Memory. It was attended by representatives of non-governmental organizations from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and South East Asia. Doudou Diene, from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Ereshnee Naidu, from the Coalition, also attended the workshop. Shirley Gunn, the executive director of Human Rights Media Center, South Africa, led the workshop sessions on oral history.
The first two days of the workshop were devoted to discussing the need to document memory in conflict and post-conflict situations, the ethics of documentation, and ways to move from documentation to action. Participants hotly debated the following issues: whose memory should be documented, the selective and changing nature of memory, and the possibility of falsifying/neutralizing memory. Participants agreed that individuals are affected by their surroundings; thus, what is remembered changes through time and space, and what is considered a violation today may not be seen as such in the future. They noted that the media turn memory into a spectacle, such as cowboy movies, and reduce it to the bare bones. Participants also asked: In the process of moving from memory to action, and in turning individual narratives, which usually do not fit together, into collective memory, whose narratives prevail, and whose are overshadowed?
In the second part of the workshop, the participants presented their own activities, which use memory to change people’s consciousness. Projects included the Cambodian Youth for Peace Initiative, a community memory-based initiative that transformed the mass killing sites into centers for remembering and dialogue, where youth collect stories of elders and use the narratives to initiate dialogue. Another project, the Tea Plantation Workers Museum in Sri Lanka, uses oral history to enlighten the wider community about the lives of tea plantation workers, many of whom were migrant laborers from Tamil-speaking India. In addition, UMAM Documentation & Research of Lebanon collects, preserves, and publicly promotes narratives on the Lebanese civil war (1975–1990). Participants were interested in TAARII’s Iraqi Oral History Project and the guide that it produced with Columbia Center for Oral History Research.
Blue Shield – June 17, 2014
PROTECTION OF IRAQI CULTURAL HERITAGE SITES
Blue Shield is appalled by the great suffering and loss of life in the current fighting in Iraq and expresses great concern about the safety of Iraq’s invaluable cultural and historical heritage.
Blue Shield urges all armed combatants to observe the international laws that protect cultural heritage and to act responsibly, safeguarding the testimony of Iraq’s unique history for the enrichment of future generations.
Iraq is home to some of the world’s oldest and most significant archaeological and cultural sites. Iraq has three UNESCO World Heritage sites and twelve tentative World Heritage sites. Iraq’s museums, particularly the national museum in Baghdad and the regional museum in Mosul, are repositories for countless irreplaceable artefacts that record this unique history.
In the event of international military action, Blue Shield calls on any participating countries to be mindful of obligations under the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two Protocols; the 1972 UNESCO Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage; the additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions; and customary international law to avoid targeting cultural heritage sites and repositories and to minimize collateral damage to cultural heritage wherever possible.
Iraq ratified the 1954 Hague Convention and its First Protocol in 1967, thereby acknowledging and committing to the protection and preservation of cultural heritage in the case of armed conflict. Blue Shield urges the international community to help Iraq fulfil its obligations to this Convention and also urges all parties to the conflict to abide by Iraq’s Antiquities Law, Law Number 55 of 2002.
Blue Shield is concerned that archaeological and cultural objects may be removed from museums, libraries, archives, and archaeological sites and placed on the illegal international art market. The actions of all governments in preserving this heritage should be consistent with the terms and spirit of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, of which there are ninety-six States Parties. Blue Shield implores auction houses and other art outlets to ensure that no illegally exported material is sold.
Blue Shield is the protective emblem of the 1954 Hague Convention, the basic international treaty formulating rules to protect cultural heritage during armed conflict. The Blue Shield network consists of organizations dealing with museums, archives, libraries, monuments and sites.
Blue Shield intervenes strategically with decisionmakers and relevant international organisations to prevent and to respond to natural and man made disasters.
With much gratitude I must thank TAARII for its support in aiding my travels to collect oral interviews on the modern heroic epic of Qatine Gabbara [Qatine the Mighty]. In the year’s timespan, I was able to collect two interviews (one completed in Iraq and one in California) sung in the tribal Tiyari-style by both genders. Both are quite comprehensive in their original Assyrian-Aramaic and with the help of Nineb Lamassu, research assistant at the University of Cambridge, they have both been transliterated into Latin-based font. Furthermore, I was able to find one participant in Toronto, Ontario, a native of the Nerwa-Rekan region of Iraq, who I recorded singing the ballad in the more uncommon Tkhuma flavor. While those verses remembered by the participant were far fewer, they represent a rare poetic version of the epic that exhibits previously unrecorded comedic stanzas. I am currently working on translating the segments collected and continue to search for retainers of the epic as well as any recordings done by other researchers. These oral epics are quintessential cultural histories and are of paramount importance to cultural perseverance and persistence. If anyone is thinking about such work in the future I am willing to aid any researchers on Iraqi Assyrians, folklore, or collecting oral histories especially for the diaspora communities, to the best of my ability.
Click here to listen to Rouel Abdal of Nerwa-Bash interviewed in Toronto by Sargon Donabed in 2010: Mam Rouel Abdal Nerwa-Bash Toronto 5-30-10
Thanks to TAARII’s support in 2005–2006, my research during that period resulted in three peer-reviewed articles and a doctoral dissertation on the modern Chaldeans, Iraq’s largest Christian minority. As a graduate student at the University of Michigan, being a TAARII fellow helped me research and publish the articles “Tomorrow They Write their Story: Chaldeans in America and the Transforming Narrative of Identities” in Arab Voices in Diaspora: Critical Perspectives on Anglophone Arab Literature, edited by Layla Al Maleh (Amsterdam-New York: Editions Rodopi B.V., 2009), pp. 395–420; “Chaldeans in America: The Shifting Spaces of an Iraqi Minority’s Discourses” in Journal of Associated Graduates in Near Eastern Studies (JAGNES) VI/2 (Spring 2006): 43–57; and “Fighting our Own Battles: Iraqi Chaldeans and the War on Terror” in Arab Detroit 9/11: Life in the Terror Decade, edited by Nabeel Abraham, Sally Howell, and Andrew Shryock (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2011), pp. 126–50.
Support from TAARII helped me conduct fieldwork among the Chaldean and Assyrian communities in Detroit, Chicago, and the transitional countries of Jordan and Syria between 2006 and 2008. The contours of the project I had initially proposed to TAARII in 2005 shifted considerably as a result of this fieldwork and so did the trajectory of my research. Rather than concluding with the single publication I had proposed, the multi-disciplinary project became my doctoral dissertation, which I defended in 2008 under the title “The Politics of Minority: Chaldeans between Iraq and America.” This support in the initial stages of my research was also instrumental in taking my career as a scholar of Iraqi culture and literature further when I became a postgraduate fellow at the Program of Europe in the Middle East/the Middle East in Europe, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, Germany, in 2009–2010 and later as an assistant professor of Arabic at Portland State University.
Although my research agenda has evolved and expanded in recent years, one conceptual framework that links all of my work is Iraqi modernity, with a strong emphasis on ethno-religious identities. My current research centers on post-2003 literary production in Iraq. My recent publications include “Unnatural Narratives and Transgressing the Normative Discourses of Iraqi History: Translating Murtadā Gzār’s Al-Sayyid Asghar Akbar,” Journal of Arabic Literature 44 (2013): 145–70; “Beyond the Trauma of War: Iraqi Literature Today,” Words Without Borders, April 2013 (http://wordswithoutborders.org/article/beyond-the-trauma-of-war-iraqi-literature-today); “Contempt: State Literati vs. Street Literati in Modern Iraq,” Journal of Arabic Literature 43/2–3 (2012): 372–408; and “Universal Shorthand: The Post 9/11 Decade and the War on Terror,” FikrunwaFann 95 (Art and Thought 95) (June 2011): 48–51.
I was awarded a TAARII Fellowship in 2008 to support the data collection phase of my dissertation project, an examination of grain storage practices in Early Bronze Age (ca. 3000–2000 BC) Mesopotamia. The funding from TAARII came at a crucial point in the research process and allowed me to broaden the geographical scope of the dissertation significantly. In particular, I was able to cover not only the dry-farming plains of northern Mesopotamia, as originally planned, but also the irrigated lowlands of southern Mesopotamia (i.e., southern Iraq), the region that has produced the most extensive written evidence for centrally managed systems of grain storage and redistribution. The writing phase of this dissertation project is now nearing completion.
While a TAARII Fellow, I took part in the Global Long Term Human Ecodynamics Conference in Eagle Hill, Maine, and was asked to contribute a chapter to a resulting edited volume. My chapter, titled “Domination and Resilience in Bronze Age Mesopotamia,” explores the archaeological and written evidence for environmental hazards and their impacts in Bronze Age (ca. 3000–1200 BC) Mesopotamia. The entire book, Surviving Sudden Environmental Change: Answers from Archaeology (eds. J. Cooper and P. Sheets), can be downloaded free from the University Press of Colorado website.
In recent years, I have also been involved in a number of other projects dedicated to the archaeology and history of early Mesopotamia. As a member of the Modeling Ancient Settlement Systems (MASS) Project, for example, I took part in the construction of an agent-based computer simulation designed to interrogate the complexities of settlement growth and collapse — and, in a broader sense, human-environment dynamics — in Bronze Age Mesopotamia. I contributed a series of chapters to a recent monograph, Models of Mesopotamian Landscapes (eds. T. J. Wilkinson, McG. Gibson, and M. Widell), dedicated to the MASS Project and published by BAR in 2013. My own chapters, two written as sole author and two as co-author, focus on food consumption, storage, pastoralism, and mobility.
Since 2012, I have also taken a leading role in a unique effort to recreate Mesopotamian beer using authentic equipment, ingredients, and brewing methods. This ongoing project, a collaboration between the Oriental Institute (University of Chicago) and Great Lakes Brewing Company (Cleveland, Ohio), has received a good deal of media attention. Articles have appeared, for example, in the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune, and I have taken part in radio interviews on Radio National (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) and VoiceAmerica. I have presented public lectures about the project at a series of tasting events in Chicago and Cleveland, and events in several other cities are slated for the near future. I am also currently working on a co-authored article that provides a general introduction to beer and brewing in Mesopotamia, as well as a more detailed look at our foray into experimental archaeology.
TAARII’s Executive Director, Beth Kangas, and Overseas Director, Lucine Taminian, joined directors of 21 other American overseas research centers and staff of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC) for a three-day workshop in Istanbul, Turkey, April 5–8, 2014. The workshop provided the opportunity for directors to share ideas and experiences and to learn tips for fundraising and evaluating programs.
The CAORC workshop overlapped with the Fulbright Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) Directors meeting. TAARII enjoyed the chance to meet with Fulbright staff members of the US embassy in Baghdad to see how we might work together to promote interactions between American and Iraqi scholars.
For more information about CAORC, go to: www.caorc.org.
The Svoboda Diaries Project (http://depts.washington.edu/svobodad) is working to bring an important collection of primary source documents from 19th century Iraq into the 21st century. The Project is an arm of the Newbook Digital Texts project (http://depts.washington.edu/ndth) at the University of Washington, one of TAARII’s institutional members.
The Project team is currently working to transcribe the diaries of Joseph Mathia Svoboda. Joseph was a clerk aboard a Lynch Brothers Steamship, and kept an extensive diary from 1860 until his death in 1908. The Project’s undergraduate interns are at work transcribing 46 volumes of Joseph’s diaries for prompt and inexpensive publication. In conjunction with the transcription and eventual publication of the diaries, Project staff are also working to assemble a wiki-style biographical encyclopedia of the Svoboda family and the many people with whom they interacted, which they have titled the “Svobodapedia.” Recent graduate student research utilizing these diaries has focused on Ottoman public health institutions as well as kinship networks and political power on the Ottoman-Qajar frontier. The Project staff welcomes the support and contributions of other scholars and anyone else interested in Iraq or in life in 19th-century Baghdad, and are open to any comments, corrections, or additional information.
The Svoboda Diaries Project is also pleased to announce that their first print publication is now available. The book is entitled From Bagdad to Paris: 1897 Journal of a Journey to Europe by Land Road via Damascus and Beirut. It is a first-person account of a journey undertaken in 1897 by a 19-year-old resident of Baghdad named Alexander Richard Svoboda, Joseph Mathia Svoboda’s son. The son of a wealthy and influential family of European merchants and artists, Alexander describes the day-to-day details of his lengthy voyage in the local Christian Arabic dialect. The text of the book is bilingual, with a transcription of the original Arabic text and an English translation by Nowf Allawi. Walter G. Andrews of the University of Washington edited the text and contributed the introduction.