[P4456] Culture and Contention in Modern Iraq

Created by Elliott Colla
Saturday, 11/19/16 4:00pm


This panel explores the broad range of intellectual debate in modern Iraq, from 1958 to the present. During the Republican period, and even later under Baathist rule, the dynamics of modern Iraqi public culture were rich and varied, and its parameters were simultaneously local, national and global. More importantly, even as writers argued about the sanctity of free intellectual and aesthetic experimentation, they also understood that their writing was never far removed from the political sphere. Through an examination of memoirs, novels, newspapers, and literary criticism, this panel explores four key moments and themes within this history, and the fault lines of the Iraqi intellectual field. The first paper revisits the qawmi/watani debates of Arab nationalists and Communists during the early Republic (1958-1963) in terms of how they served as the discursive ground on which deeper class and gender antagonisms found expression. The second paper traces the Iraqi reception of literary engagement, and how nationalist, and later Baathist intellectuals effectively stripped the Satrean concept of its communist connotations. The third paper focuses on the ways in which Iraqi litterateurs resuscitated the sa'luk, a mercurial, masculine figure drawn from the classical literary canon, in order to navigate the dangerous landscapes of poetry during the Baathist era. The final paper in the panel investigates how war narrative, a Baathist-sanctioned literary genre from the 1980s, has been transformed in the wake of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. The lines that tie these papers together are complex and sometimes unexpected. Together they show how modern Iraqi arguments about identity, community and voice were built on shifting categories of class and gender, translation and tradition, nation and sect.





Elliott Colla

(Georgetown University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair; Organizer;

Sara Pursley

(New York University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Discussant;

Amir Moosavi

(Brown University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;