[P6298] Spatial and Environmental Histories of Iraq

Created by Huma Gupta
Friday, 12/03/21 11:30 am


This panel uses a spatial analytic to reimagine environmental histories and the political economy of land in twentieth century Iraq. Recently scholars have increasingly engaged in material analyses of Iraq’s riverscapes, wetlands, animal life and disease. Building on this body of literature, this panel poses alternative conceptions of boundary and definition-making from the individual to the landscape. Conversely, spatial analyses of Iraq have often focused on the question of state artificiality. This panel moves beyond this kind of purely political spatiality to investigate the spatially-uneven environmental transformation of economic activities and social life, demonstrating how these uneven transformations shape human and non-human communities and environments through migration, displacement, and dispossession.

The first paper examines how a suite of illicit behaviors centered on “banditry” and borrowed names came to define the edge of the late Ottoman community in the marshes and rice lands near ‘Amara. It argues that these behaviors were increasingly spatialized through association with the practice of border-crossing, ultimately confining Ottoman identity both discursively and spatially. The second paper examines how, in the 1930s, estates that were primarily marshlands in which surface area annually fluctuated, were concretely fixed for the purpose of commercial agriculture. This process enabled and provoked abstract claims to property and nationality, ultimately rendering these notions real and concrete in the new political geography of Iraq. The third paper seeks to broaden the historical notion of what constituted a ‘wetland’ in Iraq. In the 1940s-50s, similar to how the Iraqi state viewed southeastern marshlands as a problem of development, this paper interrogates how capital’s authorities and state officials perceived buffalo-breeding families, the Iraqi river buffaloes, and their urban ‘wetlands’ as a problem that required drastic environmental intervention and transformation. The fourth paper investigates how T-walls function as ecological figures that symbolize much broader impacts of displacement and environmental estrangement in the long wake of the War on Terror. Rather than mark the edge, such concrete artifacts mark the messy middle of occupied territories.


Organized under the auspices of Jadaliyya Environment


Hist; Hist; Hist; Hist; Hist; Hist; Hist; Hist




Huma Gupta

(Brandeis University)
Gupta holds a PhD in history, theory, and criticism of architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her dissertation, "Migrant Sarifa Settlements and State-Building in Iraq," historicizes the dialectical relationship between Baghdad’s...
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Faisal Husain

(Penn State University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Discussant;

Camille Cole

(University of Cambridge)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Kali Rubaii

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

Gabriel Young

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