TAARII-sponsored Roundtable Discussion at MESA: Researching Iraq Today

TAARII is pleased to be sponsoring the following roundtable discussion at the Middle East Studies Association 47th Annual Meeting in New Orleans from October 10–13, 2013.

The roundtable, [R3406] Researching Iraq Today: Archives, Oral Histories, and Ethnographies, will take place on Saturday, October 12, at 11:00 a.m.


Iraq has weathered one of the longest periods of ongoing and active combat in its history over the last decade. Simultaneously, the country has witnessed a resurgence of historical, ethnographic, and politically engaged research by international scholars. Ten years after the American-led coalition invasion, the panelists on this interdisciplinary roundtable propose that it is time to discuss the methodologies, difficulties, and possibilities of conducting scholarly research on Iraq today.

This roundtable examines the potential for and limits of historical and ethnographic fieldwork on — and in — Iraq. Drawing from a range of historical and contemporary contexts that span environmental movements, political movements, media representations, and urban transformations, panelists will explore three fundamental questions. First, what kinds of historical, especially archival, research and ethnographic engagement can be sustained in Iraq today? Second, how do the successes and challenges of such qualitative research influence both the quality of original scholarship on Iraq and the integrity of knowledge about Iraq itself? Third, what role do archives outside of Iraq — such as colonial archives and oil-company papers — play in these processes?

To address these questions, the roundtable considers the conditions for ethnographic fieldwork under the Ba’th period and in the subsequent decade that followed the American-led invasion, as well as discussing the status of the Iraqi archives and underexplored human and archival sources outside of Iraq. Questioning potential connections between various fieldwork methodologies and the ongoing occupation of Iraq, we will explore how these politically problematic relationships and uncomfortable alignments come to be embraced, negotiated, or refused by the researcher. Collectively, we examine the historical and ethnographic tactics and approaches used to research Iraq in the midst of conflict and we consider how these innovative forms have, in turn, spurred disciplinary transformations in the conventions of qualitative research.


For more information, visit MESA’s website and the roundtable’s page