An Update from Arbella Bet-Shlimon (2009 US TAARII Fellow)

As you know, I was a 2009 TAARII fellow with my project “Kirkuk, 1918–1968: Oil and the Politics of Identity in an Iraqi City.” I had started working on this project in 2007. The TAARII grant assisted me with a year’s worth of research in various libraries and archives in the United Kingdom from 2009 to 2010. I have since completed the Ph.D. dissertation for which I undertook this research, and I graduated from Harvard in 2012. In the meantime, I have published two articles based on this research. The first, “Group Identities, Oil, and the Local Political Domain in Kirkuk: A Historical Perspective” came out in the Journal of Urban History 38, no. 5 in 2012. The second, “The Politics and Ideology of Urban Development in Iraq’s Oil City: Kirkuk, 1946–58,” was just published in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 33, no. 1, in Spring 2013.

Throughout this process of research and writing, I have developed and presented a more robust understanding of Kirkuk’s history than that which I proposed in my initial application for TAARII funding (as reported in the Spring 2009 TAARII Newsletter). Specifically, my research in the UK helped me locate the linkages between the Kirkuki oil industry and local identity politics — which, at the time, I said I would look into — in the relationship between oil, political institutions, and urban development. I have also come to understand that it is best to frame Kirkuk’s identity politics as a process of ethnicization of community interests that took place over the course of the twentieth century. I am now in the process of converting the dissertation into a book for publication, which I hope will bring my work to a wider audience.