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We Are Iraqis

Aesthetics and Politics in a Time of War

by Nadje Al-Ali and Deborah Al-Najjar

Publication Year: 2012

For the first time ever, an anthology in English puts together creative non-fiction, academic writing, poetry and visual arts by Iraqi contributors demonstrating how Iraqis have experienced, dealt with, and resisted the ongoing violence and destruction in creative and nonviolent ways.

Published by: Syracuse University Press


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pp. 1-2

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 3-6


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pp. v-vii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-14

This book took us much longer than intended due to various circumstances, many beyond our control. We are therefore extremely grateful to all of our contributors for their patience and for not giving up on us or on the project....


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pp. xiii-xxiii

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Introduction. Writing Trauma, Memory, and Materiality

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pp. xxv-xl

It is difficult to speak of posttraumatic stress syndrome, as Iraqis are continuing to experience various forms of individual and collective traumas both within Iraq as well as within the diaspora. Living conditions of the over two million refugees who fled since 2003, mainly...

1. What Every Driver Must Know

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pp. 1-3

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2. Bifurcations of Iraq’s Visual Culture

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pp. 5-23

There is certainly much to be said about the destruction of history and heritage in Iraq during the past century. Such a discussion, however, becomes particularly significant to the years of sanctions and following the US-led invasion. The extreme and sudden disintegration of...

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3. A Barbarian in Rome: Excerpts from a Diary

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pp. 24-34

“Are you going home for the holidays?” asked a colleague of mine two years ago in the elevator. It is a typical and legitimate question, but if you happen to be from Baghdad, as I am, formulating an answer is not a simple task. The immediate one that came to mind was: have...

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4. Putting Contemporary Iraqi Art on the Map: A Conversation with Maysaloun Faraj

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pp. 35-47

MAYSALOUN FARAJ: The works of Iraqi artists, particularly those of the late 1960s and 1970s, inspired and intrigued me throughout my artistic career. Although I was born and brought up in the USA where both my parents were studying and working at the time,...

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5. The Assassination of Iraqi Academic Life: A Personal Testimony

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pp. 48-59

Teaching Iraqi students and working for the higher education system in Iraq has been the focus of my life over the past three decades. It has been challenging from day one. But until very recently, it has also been very rewarding. I always felt it was my duty to teach a new generation...

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6. My Own Private Munich

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pp. 60-78

As a little Arab Girl with Pigtails, I witnessed the events at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games as they were televised live. Forgetting this has not gone very well. Time passes, and it is thirty years later, 3 a.m., and time once again to think about Munich. But I don’t think...

7. Hassan Abdulrazzak: A Selection

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pp. 79-82

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8. Reframing Sunni and Shi‘i Discussions

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pp. 83-92

In the thirteen hours it takes to go from Basra to Mosul, our driver Sami (a Mosul native), my cousin and I shared pieces of our lives. Over tikka sandwiches and tea at a restaurant in Beiji, we had some great laughs and long debates over the inevitable question, “Which is...

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9. Invisible Mirror: Aggression and the Thumb-Generation Response

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pp. 93-102

I first heard the term “brainwashing” when I was about 13, growing up in Kufa, Iraq, as the Iran-Iraq war was in its early stages. Saddam was taking to the airwaves to tell us that Iran was brainwashing us Iraqis. It was an unfamiliar concept. “What kind of soap did they...

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10. Iraq: A Long Phantasmagorical Dream for Those Who Are Not Part of the New Capitalism or Retired Communism

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pp. 103-118

At first, the image was still hard to make out, a little bit blurry, and somewhat difficult to discern: a conference for Iraqi intellectuals, both those returning from overseas and those still residing in Iraq, was scheduled for that coming spring in Iraqi Kurdistan. It was to be held...


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pp. 119-126

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11. Migratory Sacred Spaces: (Re)creating ‘Ashura

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pp. 127-143

The present neoimperial and neocolonial occupation/war of Iraq and the violence that has engulfed Iraq and Iraqi society has resulted in producing the fastest growing refugee and displaced population (within and outside Iraq) in the world. The displacement of Iraqis did...

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12. (Dis)connected

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pp. `144-150

Diaspora politics get me down. My own mother has told me that I have no connection to Iraq, meaning that even though I have 100 percent Iraqi blood, I have no personal experience linking me to the country, the culture, the people; I have never seen it. Since I am so removed,...

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13. Sophisticated Ways: Destruction of an Ancient City

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pp. 151-160

How does one deal and cope with the continuous destruction and utter devastation of a city? How do we grasp it? How do we process it? How do we endure it if we perceive this city to be our home, or at least one of our homes? How do we live with the spin, the distortions,...

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14. My Trips to the Unknown

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pp. 161-170

My friends always told me that I must flee Iraq for Jordan, or even for Europe, after all I had been through in Fallujah, Ramadi, and Baghdad. “Man, you are wanted by every killing group in the country,” my friend Faris always said to me. For each and every job I undertook...

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15. A Tale of Two Exiles

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pp. 171-181

A few years back, on the eve of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, I raised enough money to buy a ticket to travel to Amman in the hopes of shooting a documentary of my return to Iraq, the country of my birthplace. I had just become an American citizen, and my...

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16. 1001 Nights

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pp. 182-184

I wake up, it’s the middle of the night and I’m in our house in Kirkuk. Outside, there’s the sound of guns and bombs. I jump up. I realize my husband isn’t there. I’m alone with our four children. I’ve got to get them out, I’m scared, mustn’t panic. Quickly, get them up, they’re...

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17. Arab-Jews, Diasporas, and Multicultural Feminism: A Conversation with Ella Habiba Shohat

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pp. 185-204

EVELYN ALSULTANY: Your writing often highlights the paradoxes of exile and home. I wanted to begin with your own Arab-Jewish background and your family’s history in Iraq, Israel, and then the United States. What was your family’s experience of coming to...

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18. A Film-Training Project for Young Iraqis

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pp. 205-215

By 1991, Iraqis had been talking about the abuses of Saddam’s regime for 20 years, and many were living in exile—in neighboring Arab countries, in Iran, and in Europe. People gave their depositions and affidavits to Amnesty, they tried to heal their traumas and create...

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19. Lyrical Resistance: The Example of Saadi Youssef

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pp. 216-230

For almost a century now, Iraq has been undergoing political and cultural upheavals, the last of which was its occupation by American and Allied forces that destroyed the fabric of Iraqi society and its cultural patrimony. But, before that there were the sanctions, wars, and...

20. Larsa

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pp. 231-233

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21. Ur’s Echo: Cosmopolitans and Radical Loss

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pp. 235-249

I’m fascinated by maps and have drawn and painted many, especially of what used to be called the “Old World,” that is, North Africa, Asia, and Europe, with the Fertile Crescent and Iraq at the pivotal nexus. Inspired by topographic maps and satellite images, I paint these physical...

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22. Identity of the Numbers

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pp. 250-255

I leaf through my notebook looking for an empty page. I’m on the bus between Baghdad and Damascus. I can find only one. “This will be enough to jot down a few thoughts to look at later on” . . . in a corner at the top of the page there are a few small letters . . . I read them...


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pp. 257-266

Back Cover

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pp. 311-312

E-ISBN-13: 9780815651994
E-ISBN-10: 0815651996
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815633013
Print-ISBN-10: 0815633017

Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 40 illustrations
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Arts -- Political aspects -- Iraq -- History -- 21st century.
  • Arts, Iraqi -- 21st century.
  • Iraq -- History -- 2003-.
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