Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Charles Tripp -- Shadowing Power: Lineages of the Dual State in Iraq

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

4 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Joukowsky Forum

"Shadowing Power: Lineages of the Dual State in Iraq," with Professor Charles Tripp, Department of Politics and International Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

The foundation of the Iraqi state following the invasion and occupation of the country by British forces in the early 20th century was a ‘revolution from above’ – a political project imposed on the inhabitants of the region, devised and run by British occupiers in collaboration with selected Iraqi elites, redrawing political space and ostensibly introducing new rules to govern the exercise of power. Like all modern revolutions, it was grounded in a vision of how the state should function. But also, like all revolutions, it had to engage with the complex political societies in the territories of the new state, balancing a desire for social transformation with the pressing need to maintain order. It was this troubled experience which laid the groundwork for the dual state in Iraq: on the one hand, a state of public law and institutions, regulating power and drawing increasing numbers of Iraqis into conformity with the state bureaucracy; on the other hand, a ‘shadow state’ of effective, but only half acknowledged networks of power, patronage and violence that operated behind the façade of public institutions, paradoxically animating them but also degrading them as sites of institutional strength. During the following decades, the shadow state became the chief location of power in Iraq, as a succession of rulers found it a congenial, even necessary means of extending their control. For those fearful of its legacies, the key question now is whether the invasion and occupation of Iraq in the early 21st century has created the conditions for the resurgence of the shadow state, or for its consignment to historical oblivion. 

Location: Joukowsky Forum, Watson Institute, 111 Thayer Street.