Conference Program- Iraqi Studies: Past, Present and Future

Zeinab Azarbadegan's picture

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
Seminar on Ottoman and Turkish Studies
Department of Art History and Archaeology
Middle East Institute (MEI)
Sakıp Sabancı Center for Turkish Studies
The Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP)

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 by Zainab Bahrani (Columbia University)

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

Discussant: Dina Rizk Khoury (George Washington U.)

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

11:00-11:15     Break

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

Discussant: Marwa Elshakry (Columbia U.)

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

12:45-13:30 Lunch

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

Discussant: Sara Pursley (NYU)

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

15:00-15:15     Break

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

Discussant: Eric Davis (Rutgers U.)

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

Christopher Cooper-Davies (Cambridge U.), Between sectarian populism and anti-sectarianism: mechanisms for Shi’i national integration 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

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

Discussant: Natasha Pesaran (Columbia U.)

Dale Stahl (U. of Colorado, Denver), 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

11:30-11:45     Break

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

Discussant: Orit Bashkin (U. of Chicago)

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

13:15-14:00     Lunch

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

Discussant: Nadje Al-Ali (Brown U.)

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 1990s

15:30-15:45     Break

15:45-17:15     Roundtable