Accepted Paper:

The day they caught Saddam: diasporic public space among Iraqi refugees in Finland  

Author:

Marko Juntunen (University of Tampere)

Paper short abstract:

How does Islam enter the public space in diasporic contexts where global and local influences and state generated structures intersect? The paper observes the ways in which the sectarian violence in Iraq reflects itself in the refugee community in Finland and becomes translated into social/religious categories and boundaries.

Paper long abstract:

How does Islam enter the public space in diasporic contexts where global and local influences and state generated structures intersect. Under these complex influences diasporic muslims construct new scales of communication and dimensions of identity. While diasporic communities maintain ties to globally shared Islamic traditions they also host a variety of conflicting and competing identity processes which contest the credibility of that tradition.

Between 2005 and 2008 I carried out ethnographic fieldwork among Arabic speaking Iraqi refugees in Finland. Collapse of Saddam's regime and escalation violence in Iraq led to rapid redefinition of social boundaries within the international Iraqi community. The paper observes the ways in which the sectarian violence in Iraq reflects itself in the heterogeneous diasporic community in Finland. The ethnographic focus is on a number of leftist secularist men, many of whom were underground political activists and suffered extended prison sentences, torture and finally painful escape from Iraq. A number the subjects of this paper are writers and film makers who constantly analyze the Iraqi diaspora in their work and provide both challenges and methodological opportunities for ethnographic representation. Rather than understanding field work in a traditional dyadic format I perceive the ethnographic project consisting of series of co-operations with these men. I have participated in four large projects - namely translation of two works of fiction from Arabic to Finnish, making of two film documentaries, and writing a biography of a man who experienced eight years of imprisonment in Bagdad's Abu Ghraib prison.

Panel W098
Islam within and across religiously diverse communities: case studies from Muslims in the Balkans and Europe