2007 US Fellows

Professor Sinan Antoon, The Gallatin School, New York University
“In the Vocative Case: Saadi Youssef’s Iraq”

In late June, Antoon traveled to England with his colleague Bassam Haddad to interview and film the Iraqi poet Saadi Youssef. They returned with thirty hours of rich footage and interviews covering Youssef’s early life in Iraq and in exile since 1979, his involvement with the Iraqi Communist Part, and his pioneering contributions to Arabic poetry and culture. In addition to filming Youssef in his surroundings and around London, they managed to interview a number of poets, critics and friends of Youssef. In 2008, they will film Youssef reading poetry in Cairo or Beirut and conduct more interviews with critics and fellow poets in the Arab world to contextualized and illustrate his significance in the Arab world’s cultural centers. Since it is impossible to film in Iraq, the project still requires archival footage, as well as Youssef’s various appearances in the past on Moroccan, Syrian, and Egyptian satellite stations.

Mr. Haytham Bahoora, Department of Comparative Literature, New York University
“Toward a Singular Modernity: Literary and Architectural Modernism in Iraq, 1950–1965”

Bahoora has completed several chapters of his dissertation, now entitled “Modernism before Modernity: Literature and Urban Form in Iraq, 1950-1963,” and he has conducted a substantial amount of historical research. He explores the relationship of development policies of the Iraq Development Board to the deployment of high modernism in architecture. He emphasizes the politics of rural to urban migration of peasants from southern Iraq in the context of policies of state that sought to modernize the nation. He considers the ways that the development programs initiated by the state in this period, including its housing policies, education reform, and police recruitment reflect an anxiety (both social and political) about the new urban poor of Baghdad, an increasingly visible segment of the population. The remaining chapters are devoted to a study of the literary developments of the period, including the rise of modernist poetry and innovations in prose. For additional information about this project, see “Cultivating the Nation-Space: Modernism and Nation Building in Iraq, 1950–1963” by Haytham Bahoora in the Fall 2007 TAARII Newsletter, Issue 02-02.

Professor Magnus T. Bernhardsson, Department of History, Williams College
“Before the Storm: Americans in 1950’s Iraq”

During the fall of 2006, Bernhardsson conducted oral histories about the 1950s with a number of Iraqs in Egypt and Jordan. In the spring of 2007, he interviewed Iraqis based in the United States. In addition to the oral histories, he has also been collecting materials from a wide range of sources, both published and unpublished. He conducted research in governmental archives at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland, utilizing State Department records. Unfortunately, many of the relevant documents were still classified (it seems that many of them had been classified in August 1990). He also spent a week at the Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kansas, looking into Eisenhower’s engagement with Iraq.

Professor Eric Davis, Department of Political Science, Rutgers University
“The Formation of Political Identities in Ethnically Divided Societies: Implications for a Democratic Transition in Iraq”

In his project, Davis examined how an ethnically divided society emerging from authoritarian rule can transition to democracy. First, he analyzed the practices of Islam in Iraq after 1991. Next, he examined a number of major clerics and tribal leaders in terms of their social, educational, and political background .The role of Islam and the views of politically important clerics and tribal leaders were examined for their impact on Iraq politics. This project relied on survey data drawn from a representative sample for Iraqi youth to determine their views on key political issues, democracy, political violence, and Islam. For additional information about this project, see Davis’ in the Spring 2007 TAARII Newsletter, Issue 02-01 and “Reflections on Religion and Politics in Post-Ba'thist Iraq” by Eric Davis in the Spring 2008 TAARII Newsletter, Issue 03-01.

Ms. Melissa Eppihimer, History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University
“The Visual Legacy of Akkadian Kingship”

In her dissertation, Eppihimer considered how ancient Near Eastern rulers responded to the monuments of the Akkadian kings of the late third millennium B.C. Previous textual studies have shown that the Akkadian kings Sargon and Naram-Sin became models of kingship, both good and bad. Her dissertation asked whether there was a visual component to the ancient regard for these paradigmatic kings. Her research exposed the ways in which the legacy of the Akkadians has framed modern approaches to ancient Near Eastern art history. This study joins an earlier on focusing on a group of rock reliefs in the Zagros Mountains related to the Akkadian stele of Naram-Sin. Rather than presenting the rock reliefs as derivative copies of the stele, her research showed that some of the reliefs express an entirely different conception of kingship.

Dr. Carrie Hritz, Department of Anthropology, Washington University, St. Louis
“Remote Sensing of Cultural Heritage in Iraq”

This project addressed a number of topics in Mesopotamian archaeology using a combination of previous archaeological survey information, Corona satellite photographs, and high resolution Quickbird imagery. First, she documented the destruction of archaeological sites in southern Iraq. Second, she produced a record of archaeological sites in this largely unexplored area of the southern alluvium for future archaeological research projects. Lastly, once site locations were verified and the extent and patterns of looting traced, she mapped the remains of relict channels in the immediate environs of the site of Isin. These relict channels may shed light on movements of the Euphrates River in this western area over time. The relationship between sites, channels, and the main river branches can shed light on the somewhat obscure countryside of the powerful Isin-based city-state of the second millennium B.C. For more information about this project, see “Remote Sensing of Cultural Heritage in Iraq: A Case Study of Isin” by Carrie Hritz in the Spring 2008 TAARII Newsletter, Issue 03-01.

Professor Dina Khoury, History and International Affairs, George Washington University
“Postponed Lives: War and Memory in Iraq”

During a ten-week stay in Amman, Jordan, Khoury conducted interviews with Iraqi veterans of the Iran-Iraq and first Gulf Wars. She established contacts with two generations of intellectuals who congregated in a coffeehouse and reproduced the coffeehouse culture of intellectuals that was once prevalent in Baghdad. The 1980s generation of intellectuals fought on the front and were instrumental in creating the “literature and theater of war,” which was known as “The Literature of Qadisiyyat Saddam.” The second group of intellectuals she interviewed was younger and had its formative experience in the 1990s. While there was some overlap between the two groups, the 1990s generation was clearly marked by a different set of circumstances, not the least of which was the destructiveness of the American war on cities and the ensuing sanctions regime (regarded by many as a continuation of war) as well as the weakening of state controls. The second set of interviews was with soldiers who were mostly drawn from infantry divisions. Their stories of war and displacement were often colored by their experiences of exile in the present.

Dr. Mina Marefat, Design Research, Johns Hopkins University, and Catholic University
“Architecture, Cultural Politics, and Universalizing Modernism in 1950s Baghdad”

In her project, Marefat builds on her previous research to complete the oral history of those involved in an ambitious project to rebuild Baghdad as a modern city in the 1950s. In addition to primary research on the European and American architects who participated in the new vision of Baghdad, Marefat has interviewed key Iraqi participants whose ideas and networks were instrumental in shaping the project’s direction. She has documented the contributions and recollections of five less famous but irreplaceable figures: Rifat Chadirji, Mohammad Makkiya, Ellen Jawdat, Nizar Jawdat, and Negam Ameri. Their historical memory will reveal the full dimensions of a cultural exchange between a Middle Eastern nation captivated by progress and determined to forge a “modern” identity and a Western architectural practice. For more information about this project, see “1950s Baghdad — Modern and International” by Mina Marefat in the Fall 2007 TAARII Newsletter, Issue 02-02.

Ms. Sara Pursley, Department of History, City University of New York, Graduate Center
“The Conflict over the Iraqi Personal Status Law of 1959: A Social History”

Pursely traveled to London to conduct oral interviews with surviving members of the women’s league of the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) and the League for the Defense of Women’s Rights, which was instrumental in the drafting and promulgation of the Iraqi Personal Status Law of 1959. She also conducted archival research on the controversy over the law using Iraqi newspapers and other print materials from the time period. She plans to publish an article on the history of women’s involvement in the ICP from the 1940s to 1963. For additional information on this project, see “(Re)Forming Intimacy in Revolutionary Iraq: A Social History of the  Personal Status Law of 1959” by Sara Pursley in the Fall 2007 TAARII Newsletter, Issue 02-02.

Professor Nada M. Shabout, Art History, University of North Texas
“Between Local and Global: Continuity in Iraqi Art since 1990”

Shabout spent two months in London and Paris collecting data for her project. In Paris, she conducted research at the library of the Institut du Monde Arabe and interviewed a number of Iraqi artists residing in Paris. In London, she conducted extensive interviews with the artist Dia al-Azzawi and thoroughly examined the works and contents of his library. He has a vast collection of newspaper clips, Iraqi books on Iraqi art. Data collected have enabled her to develop a number of important questions and issues to pursue further.

Professor Keith Watenpaugh, Modern Islamic Studies, University of California, Davis
“Reassessing the ‘Assyrian Tragedy’"

The League of Nations and its archives has proven to be a remarkable source for understanding the history of Iraq in the interwar period, especially when that history intersects questions about human rights, international law, and humanitarian intervention. Watenpaugh conducted a thorough survey of archival materials related to Iraq’s Assyrian Question both in Geneva and later in London at the Public Records Office. He found the League’s archives particularly useful. Beyond records of debates in the League’s general assembly, where the newly independent Iraqi state sought to defend its treatment of the Assyrians, the League sent to the region observers who wrote lengthy and detailed reports in an attempt to understand and explain what had happened. The resulting actions (and inaction) provides a window on how complex the first years of Iraqi independence were. They also tell us something about how events in the larger Middle East were crucial to larger, international discussion and debates about minority rights, population transfer, and the refugee issue.


These fellowships are funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs through a sub-grant from the Council of American Overseas Research Centers.