Fellow Updates

Fellow Update: Adeed Dawisha (2006 US TAARII Fellow)

After the removal of Saddam Hussein, and the possibility of a new political order in the horizon after 2003, I thought of writing a book that would integrate the new political arrangements into the political history of Iraq since the crowning of King Faisal I in 1921.

I began my research in early 2004, and after two years I had accumulated enough data to begin writing. The summer of 2006 was ideal, and as someone who had written a number of books, I knew that the first two or three chapters were pivotal in setting the tone and rhythm of the whole writing project.

The TAARII grant allowed me to devote all of the summer of 2006 to writing. It freed me from having to teach summer school, and the end result was that by September 2006, I had completed the first three chapters of the book Iraq: A Political History from Independence to Occupation. The book was published in early 2009 by Princeton University Press, and I am happy to say it received good reviews. It was reprinted three times, and a paperback edition was published in 2011.

Would I have been able to write the book without TAARII’s help? Absolutely. But the grant undoubtedly supplied a crucial kick-start that made the whole endeavor easier and certainly shorter, and I am very grateful to TAARII for that.

Fellow Update: Sargon Donabed (2010 US TAARII Fellow)

With much gratitude I must thank TAARII for its support in aiding my travels to collect oral interviews on the modern heroic epic of Qatine Gabbara [Qatine the Mighty]. In the year’s timespan, I was able to collect two interviews (one completed in Iraq and one in California) sung in the tribal Tiyari-style by both genders. Both are quite comprehensive in their original Assyrian-Aramaic and with the help of Nineb Lamassu, research assistant at the University of Cambridge, they have both been transliterated into Latin-based font. Furthermore, I was able to find one participant in Toronto, Ontario, a native of the Nerwa-Rekan region of Iraq, who I recorded singing the ballad in the more uncommon Tkhuma flavor. While those verses remembered by the participant were far fewer, they represent a rare poetic version of the epic that exhibits previously unrecorded comedic stanzas. I am currently working on translating the segments collected and continue to search for retainers of the epic as well as any recordings done by other researchers. These oral epics are quintessential cultural histories and are of paramount importance to cultural perseverance and persistence. If anyone is thinking about such work in the future I am willing to aid any researchers on Iraqi Assyrians, folklore, or collecting oral histories especially for the diaspora communities, to the best of my ability.

Click here to listen to Rouel Abdal of Nerwa-Bash interviewed in Toronto by Sargon Donabed in 2010: Mam Rouel Abdal Nerwa-Bash Toronto 5-30-10

Fellow Update: Yasmeen Hanoosh (2005 US TAARII Fellow)

Thanks to TAARII’s support in 2005–2006, my research during that period resulted in three peer-reviewed articles and a doctoral dissertation on the modern Chaldeans, Iraq’s largest Christian minority. As a graduate student at the University of Michigan, being a TAARII fellow helped me research and publish the articles “Tomorrow They Write their Story: Chaldeans in America and the Transforming Narrative of Identities” in Arab Voices in Diaspora: Critical Perspectives on Anglophone Arab Literature, edited by Layla Al Maleh (Amsterdam-New York: Editions Rodopi B.V., 2009), pp. 395–420; “Chaldeans in America: The Shifting Spaces of an Iraqi Minority’s Discourses” in Journal of Associated Graduates in Near Eastern Studies(JAGNES) VI/2 (Spring 2006): 43–57; and “Fighting our Own Battles: Iraqi Chaldeans and the War on Terror” in Arab Detroit 9/11: Life in the Terror Decade, edited by Nabeel Abraham, Sally Howell, and Andrew Shryock (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2011), pp. 126–50.

Support from TAARII helped me conduct fieldwork among the Chaldean and Assyrian communities in Detroit, Chicago, and the transitional countries of Jordan and Syria between 2006 and 2008. The contours of the project I had initially proposed to TAARII in 2005 shifted considerably as a result of this fieldwork and so did the trajectory of my research. Rather than concluding with the single publication I had proposed, the multi-disciplinary project became my doctoral dissertation, which I defended in 2008 under the title “The Politics of Minority: Chaldeans between Iraq and America.” This support in the initial stages of my research was also instrumental in taking my career as a scholar of Iraqi culture and literature further when I became a postgraduate fellow at the Program of Europe in the Middle East/the Middle East in Europe, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, Germany, in 2009–2010 and later as an assistant professor of Arabic at Portland State University.

Although my research agenda has evolved and expanded in recent years, one conceptual framework that links all of my work is Iraqi modernity, with a strong emphasis on ethno-religious identities. My current research centers on post-2003 literary production in Iraq. My recent publications include “Unnatural Narratives and Transgressing the Normative Discourses of Iraqi History: Translating Murtadā Gzār’s Al-Sayyid Asghar Akbar,” Journal of Arabic Literature 44 (2013): 145–70; “Beyond the Trauma of War: Iraqi Literature Today,” Words Without Borders, April 2013 (http://wordswithoutborders.org/article/beyond-the-trauma-of-war-iraqi-literature-today); “Contempt: State Literati vs. Street Literati in Modern Iraq,” Journal of Arabic Literature 43/2–3 (2012): 372–408; and “Universal Shorthand: The Post 9/11 Decade and the War on Terror,” FikrunwaFann 95 (Art and Thought 95) (June 2011): 48–51.

Fellow Update: Tate Paulette (2008 US TAARII Fellow)

I was awarded a TAARII Fellowship in 2008 to support the data collection phase of my dissertation project, an examination of grain storage practices in Early Bronze Age (ca. 3000–2000 BC) Mesopotamia. The funding from TAARII came at a crucial point in the research process and allowed me to broaden the geographical scope of the dissertation significantly. In particular, I was able to cover not only the dry-farming plains of northern Mesopotamia, as originally planned, but also the irrigated lowlands of southern Mesopotamia (i.e., southern Iraq), the region that has produced the most extensive written evidence for centrally managed systems of grain storage and redistribution. The writing phase of this dissertation project is now nearing completion.

While a TAARII Fellow, I took part in the Global Long Term Human Ecodynamics Conference in Eagle Hill, Maine, and was asked to contribute a chapter to a resulting edited volume. My chapter, titled “Domination and Resilience in Bronze Age Mesopotamia,” explores the archaeological and written evidence for environmental hazards and their impacts in Bronze Age (ca. 3000–1200 BC) Mesopotamia. The entire book, Surviving Sudden Environmental Change: Answers from Archaeology (eds. J. Cooper and P. Sheets), can be downloaded free from the University Press of Colorado website.

In recent years, I have also been involved in a number of other projects dedicated to the archaeology and history of early Mesopotamia. As a member of the Modeling Ancient Settlement Systems (MASS) Project, for example, I took part in the construction of an agent-based computer simulation designed to interrogate the complexities of settlement growth and collapse — and, in a broader sense, human-environment dynamics — in Bronze Age Mesopotamia. I contributed a series of chapters to a recent monograph, Models of Mesopotamian Landscapes (eds. T. J. Wilkinson, McG. Gibson, and M. Widell), dedicated to the MASS Project and published by BAR in 2013. My own chapters, two written as sole author and two as co-author, focus on food consumption, storage, pastoralism, and mobility.

Since 2012, I have also taken a leading role in a unique effort to recreate Mesopotamian beer using authentic equipment, ingredients, and brewing methods. This ongoing project, a collaboration between the Oriental Institute (University of Chicago) and Great Lakes Brewing Company (Cleveland, Ohio), has received a good deal of media attention. Articles have appeared, for example, in the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune, and I have taken part in radio interviews on Radio National (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) and VoiceAmerica. I have presented public lectures about the project at a series of tasting events in Chicago and Cleveland, and events in several other cities are slated for the near future. I am also currently working on a co-authored article that provides a general introduction to beer and brewing in Mesopotamia, as well as a more detailed look at our foray into experimental archaeology.

Brewing Mesopotamian beer. A collaboration between the Oriental Institute (University of Chicago) and Great Lakes Brewing Co. (Cleveland, OH). Tate Paulette adds bappir or “beer bread” to a ceramic fermentation vessel crafted by Brian Zimerle. (Photo credit: Brian Zimerle)

Drinking Mesopotamian beer. Adventurous attendees sample Mesopotamian beer through long straws during a tasting event at Great Lakes Brewing Co. in Cleveland, OH. In the background, a cylinder seal impression from ancient Mesopotamia provides guidance. (Photo credit: Kathryn Grossman)

Fellow Update: Jill Goldenziel (2010 US TAARII Fellow)

I am immensely grateful to have received a TAARII grant, which enabled me to complete research for my forthcoming book on refugees and U.S. foreign policy. A related article, “Regulating Human Rights: International Organizations, Flexible Standards, and International Refugee Law,” was recently published in the Chicago Journal of International Law. The article explains how international organizations can improve human rights outcomes under conditions where treaty regimes have failed. By using their authority to create more flexible standards than those contained in international human rights law, facilitating linkage of human rights practices to economic incentives, and providing valuable legal cover for state actions, international organizations may succeed in getting even rogue states to improve their human rights practices. I develop this argument in the context of the U.N. Refugee Agency’s management of the post-2003 Iraqi refugee crisis in Jordan and Syria. I also present examples of how international organizations might serve as regulators of human rights in other contexts.

Read the entire article here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2243208

You can learn more about Dr. Goldenziel here: scholar.harvard.edu/jill

Fellow Update: Brandon Wolfe-Hunnicutt (2011 US TAARII Fellow)

I am very grateful for the research opportunities that the TAARII fellowship provided. My Ph.D. dissertation, “The End of the Concessionary Regime: Oil and American Power in Iraq, 1958–1972” (Stanford University, 2011), would not have been possible without the generous funding provided by TAARII. The TAARII fellowship allowed me to travel to the British Petroleum archive at Warwick University in Coventry England, and then on to the American University in Beirut where I conducted research on manuscripts and memoirs of Iraqi exiles who settled in Beirut in the 1970s.

These resources were invaluable to my dissertation research as they offered insight into the processes institution building in Iraq that allowed for the complete nationalization of the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC) at a relatively early date (1972–75).

Since completing my dissertation, I’ve begun teaching U.S. and Middle East History at the University of California, Merced. Teaching offers its own rewards and challenges, and I’ve particularly enjoyed having the opportunity to teach the history of Iraq. Undergraduate students tend to come into the class with a great many preconceived notions about history of Iraq, many of which are problematic, and I’m honored to have the opportunity to offer a deeper and more realistic understanding of modern Iraqi history.

I’ve also been working on publishing my research. My article, “Embracing Regime Change: US Foreign Policy and the 1963 Coup in Iraq” was recently accepted for publication by the editors of Diplomatic History and will be forthcoming in 2014. The article expands on research that I began while working on my dissertation, but includes many additional sources that I came across while a TAARII fellow. My article contributes to a growing body of scholarship on the 1963 coup and the question of U.S. involvement. Those interested in this subject might want to also consult several pieces of recent scholarship including: Weldon Matthews, “The Kennedy Administration, Counterinsurgency, and Iraq’s First Ba‘thist Regime,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 43, no. 4 (2011): 635–53; Johan Franzén, Red Star over Iraq: Iraqi Communism Before Saddam (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011); Eric Jacobsen, “A Coincidence of Interests: Kennedy, U.S. Assistance, and the 1963 Iraqi Ba’th Regime,” Diplomatic History 37:5 (May 2013): 1029–59. I am also currently revising my dissertation for publication by incorporating new sources, reorganizing the chapter presentation, and situating the analysis of U.S.-Iraqi relations in the 1958–1972 period within a broader historical context.

I would be very happy to talk with interested scholars about my research, the TARRII fellowship, or recent developments in the field. I can be reached at bwolfe-hunnicutt@ucmerced.edu.

Fellow Update: Dina Khoury (2007 & 2008 US TAARII Fellow)

TAARII funded two research trips to Jordan (2007) and Syria (2009) to conduct interviews with Iraqi veterans of the Iran-Iraq and the First Gulf wars. These interviews formed part of the research for my book, Iraq in Wartime, Soldiering, Martyrdom and Remembrance (Cambridge University Press, 2013). In Amman, TAARII’s Senior Research Fellow, Lucine Taminian, was very helpful in providing contacts and facilitating my research. TAARII runs the Iraqi Oral History Project, which aims at collecting the testimonies of Iraqis who have lived through the momentous events of the twentieth century. Lucine plays an important part in that project and she was ready with advice as to what to expect. The interviews I conducted were crucial for the argument I made in the book and in giving me an understanding of the centrality of the Iraq-Iran War in shaping the sensibility of a whole generation in Iraq. It also allowed me to understand the impact of violence on the lives of Iraqis in a manner that would have been difficult to comprehend had I not had a chance to conduct these interviews. Please check this link for more on the book and a sample interview: http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/10106/new-texts-out-now_dina-rizk-khoury-iraq-in-wartime

Fellow Update: Amy Gansell (2012 US TAARII Fellow)

On March 6, 2013, Amy Gansell gave a lecture entitled, “Concepts of Feminine Beauty and Adornment in Ancient Mesopotamia Illuminated through Near Eastern Cultural Practices of the Twentieth-century to the Present,” for the Department of Social Science & Cultural Studies at the Pratt Institute. Professor Gansell was a Visiting Assistant Professor in Pratt’s History of Art and Design department. Her talk showed images of her project on queenly adornment. A video of her lecture is available here.

Fellow Update: Hilary Falb (2012 US TAARII Fellow)

Hilary Falb has just published an article on education in Iraq and Palestine in Volume 3, No 2, 2013 of the Kufa Review. It is a special issue on education in Iraq sponsored by the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. Click here to view the issue.

“Pedagogical Paradox: Education and Internalization in the Mandates for Palestine and Mesopotamia (Iraq)”

Abstract: Education in the Middle East during the interwar period offers a window into international educational trends as well as the nuanced ways colonial educational policies and local endeavors
shaped which pedagogical methods, tactics, subjects and standards became accepted on a global scale. Schooling in the Mandate for Palestine and in the Kingdom of Iraq during the late
1930s demonstrates two different ways in which educational policies become international. On the one hand, policies can be “de-nationalized” or separated from the nation which originated these methods. Those who experience this education believe it to be universally valid. On the other hand, countries developing their own systems of public education may pick and choose policies from several international sources and then combine them, creating a uniquely national system of education.

An Update from John Bowlus (2011 US TAARII Fellow)

I will always be grateful for my TAARII Fellowship as I simply could not have visited the archives that I did and my dissertation would not be as multi-perspectival as it is. The TAARII Fellowship permitted me to travel to London to view the UK National Archives and then to Coventry to mine the archives of British Petroleum. After Britain, I went to the archives of the Quai D’Orsay and the Total Oil Company in Paris.

It is well known that the British played an important role in Iraq politically until 1958 and in oil until 1972, but the French influence in oil after the nationalization of the Petroleum Company (IPC) in 1972 is less understood. The archives of the Total Oil Company provide a wealth of information, particularly for the period from 1972 to 1980, and few American scholars have examined these sources. I would estimate that roughly 30-40% of the files are in French, but the remaining 60% are in English, since this was the language of interaction between the Iraqis and French on oil matters. Also, Total has all of the files for the IPC, which document the history of the company from 1934 to 1972. An even greater majority of these files are in English, probably 80%.

I would be more than happy to advise fellow TAARII fellowship winners or others who are interested in visiting these archives and look forward to hearing about your work related to the history of Iraq.