TARII Awards 2019 US Fellowships

TARII was encouraged and excited to receive so many strong applications for our 2019 US fellowships. Unfortunately, we cannot award all of the great research being done on and in Iraq at the moment but we are working towards expanding our research funding. We are excited to announce, after a full review by a scholarly committee, this year’s TARII US Fellows are:

  • Andrew Alger, (City University of New York): “From Beirut to Baghdad: AUB Graduates and the Production of Urban Space in Iraq, 1920-1968”

  • Wisam Al-Shaibi, (University of California Los Angeles): “Resurrecting the Dead: archives, exiles, and the wars in Iraq”

  • Jeffrey Haines, (University of Washington): “Mosul’s Hinterland: Village and Monastery in Early Islamic Iraq”

  • Anke Marsh, (University College London): “Water and Vegetation in the Rise of Social Complexity in Southern Mesopotamia"

Please check back for future updates on their research and projects.

Support for this program comes from a grant from the State Department's Bureau for Educational and Cultural Affairs (State/ECA) through the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC).


At this time, TARII does not publicize the names of our Iraqi Fellows for security reasons. We do, however, award fellowships to Iraqi scholars every year and we look forwarding to continuing to support their research. Please remember, the Iraqi fellowship applications are due by April 30. You can find more information here and may direct any questions to Lucine Taminian (TaminianL@tarii.org). 

We are also accepting dissertation prize nominations until August 31, with dissertations from 2016 - 2019 eligible. More information is available here. Nominations and questions should be submitted to Info@tarii.org.

TARII Hosts Reception at MESA 2018

TARII hosted another successful reception at the November 2018 Middle East Studies Association (MESA) annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas!

We enjoyed reconnecting with so many of you, meeting potential members, and hearing about your research. TARII’s Board and staff always look forward to meeting people interested in the research of Iraq. As we enter the 30-year anniversary of the founding of TARII, we will be moving forward with new projects, expanding our fellowships, and wonderful membership events.

Please stay connected with us as we have some exciting announcements coming in 2019!

MESA attendees gather at the TARII reception and make new friends! Photo credit: TARII, 2018

MESA attendees gather at the TARII reception and make new friends! Photo credit: TARII, 2018

TARII Founder and Former President McGuire Gibson (left) and current TARII President Peter Wien chat at the MESA reception. Photo credit: TARII, 2018

TARII Founder and Former President McGuire Gibson (left) and current TARII President Peter Wien chat at the MESA reception. Photo credit: TARII, 2018

TARII Brings Together the Advisory Council for the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage

In September, TARII brought together the Advisory Council for the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage (IICAH) in Erbil, Iraq. It was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and implemented by TARII with the help of the Smithsonian Institution. This was the first Advisory Council meeting in 5 years, the last being in 2013 due to Daesh entering the area in 2014. TARII was excited to bring the Council together (from around the US and Iraq) to discuss the re-advancement of the Institute.

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IICAH conservation students in class

Photo credit: TARII, 2018

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The Council tours the Erbil Civilization Museum, which has conservators trained at IICAH

Photo credit: TARII, 2018

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The Council speaks with the Erbil Civilization Museum conservators and tours their lab

Photo credit: TARII, 2018

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Museum conservators with their IICAH instructors/council members

Photo credit: TARII, 2018

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Dr. Katharyn Hanson, TARII Board Member, presents at the meeting

Photo credit: TARII, 2018

TARII Hosts Reception at MESA

TARII was excited to see so many new and familiar faces at the Middle East Studies Association 2017 Annual Conference in Washington, DC. TARII was happy to host a reception on the evening of Saturday, November 18, 2017 and be able to chat and connect with so many of our past and present fellows, faculty supporters, and people interested in Iraq. We look forward to seeing everyone in San Antonio in 2018!

Panel: "Narratives of Co-existence and Pluralism in Northern Iraq"

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On Friday, November 17, 2017, at the Ripley Auditorium of the Smithsonian Ripley Center, the academic panel, "Narratives of Co-existence and Pluralism in Northern Iraq," was presented in honor of Dr. Peter Sluglett.

This panel was organized by Dr.  Alda Benjamen (University of Pennsylvania Museum, Smithsonian Institution). The event began with a welcome by TARII Executive Director, Dr. Katharyn Hanson, and the panel started with special remarks about the life and career of Dr. Sluglett by Dr. Nelida Fuccaro (NYU Abu Dhabi) and Dr. Dina Khoury (George Washington University). They spoke about the Sluglett's contributions to the field and the profound impact his mentorship had on so many scholars.

The panel began with special remarks about the life and career of Dr. Sluglett by Dr. Nelida Fuccaro (NYU Abu Dhabi), and Dr. Dina Khoury (University of Washington). They spoke about Sluglett's contributions to the field and the profound impact his mentorship had on so many scholars. 

TARII President Dr. Peter Wien introduces the panel and makes the opening remarks. Photo credit: TARII, 2017

TARII President Dr. Peter Wien introduces the panel and makes the opening remarks. Photo credit: TARII, 2017

TARII President Dr. Peter Wien (University of Maryland) then introduced the panel and made the opening remarks. Dr. Orit Baskin (University of Chicago) spoke first, explaining that the diverse ethnic makeup of northern Iraq in the 19th century actually helped the position of the Iraqi Jews. She further discussed the Iraqi Jews during the Rashid Ali al-Gaylani revolts and stated that the Iraqi Jews felt they could trust their neighbors in Kirkuk and rely on their local partners, which was much different from the sectarian revolts in Baghdad.

Dr. Orit Baskin begins her presentation. Photo credit: TARII, 2017

Dr. Orit Baskin begins her presentation. Photo credit: TARII, 2017

A slide from Michael Sims’ presentation on Yezidis in Iraq. Photo credit: TARII, 2017

A slide from Michael Sims’ presentation on Yezidis in Iraq. Photo credit: TARII, 2017

Michael Sims (University of Washington) discussed the increasing Yezidi marginalization from Ottoman to post-Ottoman Iraq by reviewing many primary accounts. Many Yezidis, he argued, are looking for self-determination but find themselves politically marginalized.

 
Dr. Arbella Bet-Shlimon discusses Kirkuk. Photo credit: TARII, 2017

Dr. Arbella Bet-Shlimon discusses Kirkuk. Photo credit: TARII, 2017

Dr. Alda Benjamen highlighted how minorities, such as the Assyrians, had been active in the Iraqi opposition for decades and are the key to rebuilding Iraq today. She focused on examples where religion and culture are intertwined in many communities in the Nineveh Plain.  

Dr. Arbella Bet-Shlimon (University of Washington) challenged notions that Kirkuk was on the brink of war and examined how Kurds came to frame Kirkuk as their "long lost Jerusalem", a post-1958 development.

Dr. Nabil Al-Tikriti presenting on the tripartite partition of Iraq. Photo credit: TARII, 2017

Dr. Nabil Al-Tikriti presenting on the tripartite partition of Iraq. Photo credit: TARII, 2017

Dr. Nabil Al-Tikriti (University of Mary-Washington) examined the idea of the tripartite partition of Iraq and where this notion came from. He further traced these ideas and how they fed into sectarianization and displacement legacies.

At the conclusion of the panel, Dr. Wien led a question and answer session.

From left to right: Dr. Alda Benjamen, Dr. Orit Bashkin, Dr. Nabil Al-Tikriti, TARII President Dr. Peter Wien, Dr. Arbella Bet-Shlimon, Michael Sims, and TARII Executive Director Dr. Kathryn Hanson. Photo credit: TARII, 2017

From left to right: Dr. Alda Benjamen, Dr. Orit Bashkin, Dr. Nabil Al-Tikriti, TARII President Dr. Peter Wien, Dr. Arbella Bet-Shlimon, Michael Sims, and TARII Executive Director Dr. Kathryn Hanson. Photo credit: TARII, 2017

Corpse Exhibition: Iraqi Literature after 2003

On September 29, 2017 miriam cooke organized a two-part symposium (the first at Duke University and the second to be held in Iraq) on Iraqi literature published after the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. The outpouring of dystopian novels, short stories, memoirs and poetry has been intense over the past 14 years, yet scholarly interest has lagged. The symposium was designed to respond to this lag. Speakers contextualized the occupation within a history of American imperialism in order not to exceptionalize Iraqi suffering but rather to understand where it fits in an overall strategy to dominate the region.

After a screening of Ahlaam and Abd al-Sattar’s overview of Iraqi literature under the Ba'ath regime, the symposium featured two readings and four presentations. Louis Yako recited some of his poetry and Sinan Antoon read from his newly translated The Baghdad Eucharist.  Both writers also presented papers and both addressed the trope of corpses that haunts post-2003 Iraqi literature. It was Hassan Blasim’s 2013 The Corpse Exhibition that provided the title for the symposium.

Louis Yako’s “Death & Exile in Balasim's Writing” asked why post-war writers needed “to do language in the way Balasim and many post-occupation Iraqi writers do it? If language becomes the only “home” when all else is lost, perhaps, like any home, language, too, must be a good representation of our experiences, tastes, joys, sorrows, losses, and pains. In fact, this new language must also be able to equally capture everything that shouldn’t have happened… Perhaps asking for a perfect language to capture what happened is akin to asking for all human atrocities to vanish at a blink of an eye.”* Sinan Antoon’s “Writing Iraq after 2003” discussed his 2010 The Corpse Washer (translated into English in 2013). He called for a change in focus so that resilience, survival and creativity replace the morbid fascination with the dead. Ikram Masmoudi examined the poetics of space, elaborating on her 2015 War and Occupation in Iraqi Fiction that engages with the literary representation of wars, sanctions, and draconian censorship Iraqis endured since Saddam Hussein became president in 1980. She again identified Agamben’s homo sacer in the deserters, traumatized soldiers and prisoners whose deaths cannot be mourned or avenged. Amanda Al-Raba'a’s “Translators, Ethics, and Gender in Iraq War literature” analyzed the role of interpreters in life as in fiction. Caught in the barzakh between two cultures and languages, they belong to both and to neither and thus have to negotiate the fine line between complicity, betrayal and martyrdom.

Participants in the "Corpse Exhibition: Iraqi Literature after 2003" Symposium

It is hoped that the situation in Iraq will allow us to follow through on the planned second half of the symposium that will focus on writers.

*Yako’s paper was published on October 6, 2017 in Counterpunch https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/10/06/post-war-language-death-and-exile-in-iraqi-literature-after-2003/ accessed 15 January 2018

TARII Receives Carnegie Grant

TARII is very excited to announced that we have received a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York as part of "support of 'problem-solving analysis and action' in the Middle East and North Africa. The funding aims to boost social science education and resources, while building a stronger evidence base for public policies."

Our project "aims to improve social science methods in Iraqi universities and create a network among institutions. The project will also undertake 'an evaluation of the current state of undergraduate education' focusing on five universities, including Mosul University — which has a long history of excellence, but it served as a headquarters for Islamic State occupation of the city until its liberation this summer." 

To read the full story on the grants issued by the Carnegie Corporation, click here.

TARII Update

The American Academic Research Institute in Iraq (TAARII), now operating as The Academic Research Institute in Iraq (TARII), maintains a mission to promote scholarly research on and in Iraq and to strengthen relationships between Iraqi and American scholars and institutions.

TARII is committed to ensuring that our Iraqi employees, fellows, and colleagues are able to engage in collaboration and ongoing research projects in Iraq and the US.

In light of current developments, TARII pledges to continue to foster scholarship and build academic ties between the US and Iraq.

Join us:  http://www.tarii.org/join

 

إن رسالة معهد الدراسات الأكاديمية في العراق (تاري) هي دعم الأبحاث العلمية حول العراق وفي العراق، وتعزيز العلاقات بين العلماء والمؤسسات العلمية العراقية والأمريكية.

يلتزم معهد تاري بضمان مشاركة موظفيه وزملائة العراقيين في المشاريع البحثية التشاركية والمشاريع الجارية في العراق وفي الولايات المتحدة.

وعلى ضوء التطورات الحالية، يتعهد المعهد الإستمرار بتشجيع البحث الأكاديمي وببناء علاقات أكاديمية بين العراق والولايات المتحدة.

Conference Report: "Living Heritage in a Middle East Conflict"

Peter Wien, TARII President

TARII: though our name suggests that we are a research institute “…in Iraq,” it has been difficult to establish this fact since the fateful events of 2003. Only few of our members have been able to visit the country, and our fellowship program can only fund U.S. researchers who work on, but not in, Iraq. The project funding for Iraqi researchers in Iraq is TARII’s pride, but only few Iraqis could secure a visa for travel to the U.S. Stateside, legal restrictions, the all too real threat of violence, but also perceptions about insecurity have led to an entire generation of Iraq scholars writing about Iraq without field experience, with exceptions few and far between. First contact, overcoming reservations, putting feet on the ground, and meeting people were therefore very good reasons for me to undertake a trip to the north of Iraq to participate in a conference-workshop on “Living Heritage in a Middle East in Conflict,” organized jointly by the Institut Français du Proche Orient (IFPO) in Erbil and the American University of Iraq in Sulaimaniye (AUIS). The conference took place on the impressive premises of AUIS from May 10 to 11, 2016.

Nicely accommodated in a luxurious hotel named, aptly or not, “Titanic,” a group of researchers from the Middle East, Europe, and North America met for two days of intensive scholarly exchange. The “Titanic” is situated on the outskirts of the city overlooking the center and distant mountain tops, right next to an amusement park with a towering ferris wheel. A fifteen minutes bus ride along the ring road took us to the campus of AUIS with its state of the art conference hall, including simultaneous translation from and into Arabic, Kurdish, French and English.

Left to right: Abdulameer al-Hamdani presenting at AUIS, with Geraldine Chatelard, Mahmood Ahmed Bakr Khayat, and Leila Salih in the Background (Peter Wien, 2016)

Left to right: Abdulameer al-Hamdani presenting at AUIS, with Geraldine Chatelard, Mahmood Ahmed Bakr Khayat, and Leila Salih in the Background (Peter Wien, 2016)

The University president and the co-sponsoring French institutions (the Institut Français, based at the French embassy in Baghdad, the IFPO, which maintains a branch on the citadel of Erbil, the Capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq) offered their greetings, followed by presentations by participants covering the entire Middle East region and beyond, including even reflections on the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban, and the impact of the recovery efforts on local populations (Constance Windham, Bert Praxenthaler). Discussions evolved around issues of cultural heritage destruction and its impact on social life, coping strategies of affected populations in Iraq and Syria, or the challenges to the preservation of living space, customs and linguistic heritage in the face of ongoing contestations of power and dominance between rivaling groups in the entire region, at the expense of local and minority identities (Alda Benjamen, Aline Schlaepfer, Mikhael Benjamin, Jean Lambert, Rafiq al-Akkuri, Jordi Tejel). Iraqi colleagues in particular bemoaned the loss of traditions of coexistence and collaboration that had dominated Iraqi social life in the past (Hassan Nadhem, Ghada al-Slik, Scheherazade Qassim Hassan, Mahmood Ahmed Bakr Khayat).

Particularly interesting were presentations by AUIS professor Edith Szanto about the “rediscovery” of Zoroastrianism among the Kurdish youth as the “original” Kurdish religion as push-back against the rising threat of militant Islamism, by former TARII fellows Bridget Guarasci on the pitfalls of post-Saddam reconstruction discourses as exemplified by the Iraqi Marshlands, Mosul archeologist Leila Salih’s discussion of the re-purposing of lost heritage site in her home town, former TARII fellow Abdulameer Hamdani’s stock taking of the disappearance and dispersal of Iraqi ancient heritage since 2003, and Thomas McGee’s fascinating account of debates in the North Syrian Kurdish city of Kobane about the re-construction or memorial preservation of the destroyed city center after Kurdish troops re-took it from Daesh in 2015. Accounts of the impact of the Syrian Civil war on cultural and social heritage were particularly chilling (Mustafa Ahmad, Mohamad Aljasem, Vanessa Guéno), while other presentations focused on possibilities of reconstruction, both materially and socially (Diane Duclos, Jala Makhzoumi). Conference organizers Géraldine Chatelard, Elizabeth Campbell, and Boris James steered questions and answers to cover issues related to political, legal and scholarly dimensions of the definition of heritage, and what the international heritage discourse can do to the life of communities. Interesting contributions to the discussion included Saad Eskander’s remark that it should not be forgotten that heritage destruction pre-dated the 2003 invasion and Daesh. Great parts of old Baghdad had fallen victim to Ba‘thist development plans, long before 2003. Altogether, the conference offered crucial insights to the variety of challenges that cultural heritage activists and practitioners are facing. The conversation is ongoing.

Peter Wien in the Museum of Sulaimaniye, in front of a statue from Hatra (Wien, 2016)

Peter Wien in the Museum of Sulaimaniye, in front of a statue from Hatra (Wien, 2016)

Next to the proceedings of the conference, informal interactions and visits to nearby sites were especially inspiring. The Sulaimaniye Museum offered a glimpse of the past in several ways – first of all through its small but fine collection of antiquities, but also because of the composition of the museum’s artifacts stemming from all different regions of Iraq, at a time when the collaboration and interaction of Iraqi scholars across lines of sect and ethnicity were a simple fact of life. Iraqi archaeologists of all proveniences attended university together and worked in all corners of the country, as the director indicated, and they sometimes were allowed to take along artifacts to the local museums of their places of origin.

I had decided to extend my stay for a couple of days beyond the conference, which offered me the opportunity to join French and American colleagues on an outing to the mountains and valleys around Sulaimaniye, and on an overland trip to Erbil, where I wanted visit the facilities of the Iraqi Institute for the Preservation of Antiquities and Heritage that is affiliated with the University of Delaware. The trip to the Kurdish mountains turned out to be a lesson in Kurdish public history and culture of commemoration of experiences of violence.

The Qaradagh Mountains (Peter Wien, 2016)

The Qaradagh Mountains (Peter Wien, 2016)

Florence, director of the French School in Sulaimaniye, her Kurdish co-director Razgar and his son Rawa invited us on a trip to get to know the comforts of a favorite Kurdish family pass time – a picnic in the fields and meadows at the foot of a mountain range. But this was not only about eating stuffed vine leaves and peppers, but also about reminiscing the killing fields of Kurdistan. Razgar turned out to be a Peshmerga veteran who had fought against Saddam Husain’s army in the Anfal campaign. During the massive sweeps and chemical attacks in the late eighties, he had held out among the impressive rock formations of the Qaradagh mountains that we were now marveling at in the midday sun. His unit had spent months in hideouts, reduced from a group of more than one hundred fighters to only a hand full, moving between positions and fighting pitched battles against Iraqi troops, watching helicopter gunships drop chemical weapons. The villages we passed through were mostly new constructions after having been bulldozed by the army. One Peshmerga, 16 years old at the time, had lost his entire family, but was now living again in his ancestral village with a new family, Razgar told us. He himself escaped and went into exile in France for many years. The intense and rough beauty of the landscape made it hard to believe that this place had witnessed horrendous crimes. The clouds of poisonous gas had risen and almost reached the mountaintops, he said, and then had slowly sunken down again.

Razgar and Rawa at Derband-i Gawir (Peter Wien, 2016)

Razgar and Rawa at Derband-i Gawir (Peter Wien, 2016)

The history and present of war are omnipresent in the Kurdish mountains. During a hike up to the Akkadian stone relief of Derband-i Gawir, which some say depicts warrior king Sargon of Akkad, our guides each shouldered their Kalashnikov and M16 rifles. We followed paths where Razgar and his comrades had descended into the valley by night to gather water and access cachets of flour and sugar, after staying in their hiding places during the day. The rifles, the stories, are certainly a chilling reminder of a violent past, but they are also part of the mis-en-scene of a memory culture with enormous legitimating power for the present. We continued the trip in our 4x4s to the Qopi Qaradagh, the tip of the valley and then back through a village where we greeted some elders and contemplated the martyrs’ monument. The latest of the martyrs’, whose images were not yet displayed, had fallen in the fight against Daesh. Razgar told us how he had helped injured veterans procure pensions from the KRG. He also told us of the foreign fighters from the US, France, Germany, Britain and other countries who came to join the Peshmerga against Daesh and who they sent on to Syria.

The Martyrs' Monument (Peter Wien, 2016)

The Martyrs' Monument (Peter Wien, 2016)

The contrast between the eerily peaceful mountains of Southeastern Kurdistan around Suleimaniye and the suffocating heat of Erbil could not be stronger. The plains around Erbil lack the refreshing breeze and spring rains of Suli, and the burning of trash does its share to make Erbil’s air hard to breathe at night. The laid back atmosphere of Suli, a mid-size town, compares positively with the buzz of the Kurdish metropolis, the intense traffic and the bustling activity of the market. While it was hard to find a mosque in Suli, and one would rarely hear a call to prayer, both were omnipresent in Erbil. Seemingly, we had already entered a different country when we had crossed the border between PUK and KDP territory some distance before entering Erbil – an absurd situation: not only is one traveling supposedly  inside the Iraqi nation state, there should also be inseparable brotherhood among the Kurds. But there we were, two sets of Peshmerga at a cold war style border post, in different uniforms, and the KDP side would not even consider the diplomatic passports of my French co-travelers sufficient to spare us a search of our luggage and some questioning.

Remembering Kobani in the center of Sulaimaniye (Peter Wien, 2016)

Remembering Kobani in the center of Sulaimaniye (Peter Wien, 2016)

In the morning after our arrival my co-traveler Geraldine Chatelard and I visited the citadel, enjoying its mosque’s late 1950s modernist style renovation, contrasting with the historicist reconstruction of the main gateway to the fortress. In the modern western Orientalist’s quest for the “authentic” we also preferred the shabby Ottoman remainders deep in the bazaar at the foot of the citadel to the recently renovated representative parts opening to the streets and squares. The difference highlights the conflict between glitzy new renovations that are supposed to boost the town’s attractiveness for tourism on the one hand, and the care that preservationists want to put into Iraqi heritage, a goal that a new generation of Iraqi practitioners and scholars shares with foreign specialists. Both sides have a home and gathering point in the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage that uses the old Erbil public library building outside the walls of the citadel. Brian Lione, the Institute’s managing director, gave us a tour of the labs and classrooms, as well as of a mud-brick production and building facility in the backyard that offers instruction in ancient construction techniques to the attendants of the Institute’s regular workshops, who come from all parts of Iraq to learn the necessary skills for a challenging job in a war-torn country.

One of the highlights of the stay was a visit in the afternoon of the same day, before my departure back to the US, to Sinem Khanoum, an old Kurdish lady and friend of Geraldine, who belongs to a generation of Iraqis, which is about to disappear. She has an intellectual and political family background of Kurdish nationalists with a strong sense of inter-communal Iraqiness. She spent her life in Damascus, Baghdad, Kirkuk, Erbil, and Paris was probably somewhere in the mix, too. Her father had studied law in Leipzig, Germany, in the 1920s, her late husband had been in the oil ministry in Baghdad. Sinam Khanoum had fond and nostalgic memories about the old days when the communities were living together in the Iraqi capital up until 2003, but also about a meeting with the charismatic Kurdish leader Mullah Mustafa Barzani in the 1970s.

Peter Wien (left) with Village Elders (Wien, 2016)

Peter Wien (left) with Village Elders (Wien, 2016)

After a dinner of Kurdish barbecue in a café at the foot of the citadel, I departed to the airport. Different from the makeshift terminal hangars of the international airport of Sulaimaniye, the Erbil facilities are built to impress as this is supposed to be a shiny new gateway to and from what was once meant to be a new Dubai in Iraq. That dream has fallen victim to the decline in oil prices, the corruption and the mismanagement that have left the economy of the Kurdish region of Iraq a shambles. Inner-Kurdish conflicts linger under the surface, but one can sense the people’s pride and resilience as well. Observations and impressions of a short visit remain superficial, but hopefully the establishment of closer links between TARII and the scholarly communities of all of Iraq will open channels for beneficial cooperation and mutual learning in the near future.