Accepted Paper:

Memory, space, and identity: the making of new belongings in Iraq  


Abdulla Majeed (Western University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines how the reconfiguration of Baghdad’s urban space post-2003 around ethno-sectarian lines has contributed to the construction of new forms of individual/collective subjectivities, which are inextricably linked tp memory-making and re-memoring in these new spaces.

Paper long abstract:

The 'security' wall proposed by the Iraqi government in 2016, and stretching more than 300 kilometers around Baghdad is another mechanism of power that furthers the fragmentation of the territory and national polity, through the segregation of communities. This process is rooted in imperial occupations and invasions of Iraq, the most recent being the US-led invasion-occupation in 2003. Resulting from US policies in Iraq, Baghdad's urban space has been reterritorialized around ethno-sectarian lines. These processes that reconfigured old neighborhoods have been concurrently erasing and marginalizing memories of a more diverse space of interaction, where spatial arrangements had enabled diverse forms of social interaction. Since memory-place are inextricably linked, the reconstitution of space diminished national consciousness and instead fostered collective solidarities based on ethnic or sectarian identities. Thus, this paper will argue that these physical structures and check points refract an imperial imaginary and strategy for a 'new' Iraq, and parallel other processes, such as census-taking, and formal institutionalization of sectarian and ethnic identities that undermine national belonging and citizenship. These processes have repercussions on memory-making in the post-2003 Baghdadi neighborhoods. Needless to say, identities are processes, always in flux and in a state of perpetual contestation in both time and space (Hall 2006), and informed by sociohistorical and political contexts. City walls and checkpoints represent "miniature" borders (Stewart 1984). In time, these miniature borders, along with other state policies fragment territory and people, confining relationships and experiences, and in turn undermining national belonging as it creates new layers of otherness.

Panel WIM-WHF05
Making and remaking the city / Faire et refaire la ville