Middle East Studies

Conference | Iraq Twenty Years After the US Invasion: Memory Politics, Governance and Protests

Wednesday, March 29 –
Friday, March 31, 2023

GIGA (German Institute for Global and Area Studies), Hamburg

About the conference (click to link to GIGA website listing)
The US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 came after decades of Baath dictatorship, several wars and the humanitarian toll of the most extensive sanctions regime since World War II. It coalesced into a hybrid political system with sectarian undertones, civil war, and the rise and fall of the Islamic State. This bleak picture poses challenges to politics of memory, reconstruction, and reconciliation, but it also overlooks the creative approaches of Iraqi society to re-imagine itself, build a public sphere, and claim public spaces. The aftermath of 2003 opened up new spaces for civil society and cultural expression, firmer constitutional roots for Kurdish autonomy and a revaluation of sectarian divides, social and gender roles.

The conference takes stock of the scholarship on Iraq’s modern history, post-2003 transformations and current developments, with a special focus on questions of governance, institutions, protest movements, and the politics of memory.

Given the formative and long-lasting influence of Saddam Hussein’s authoritarian rule the conference lays particular emphasis on historiographic research with Iraqi sources, such as newly available archival evidence and their use in recent scholarship, ego documents, and oral histories as well as literary sources as an alternative form of historical archive. We also focus on emerging cultures of remembrance in contemporary Iraq as well as on Iraqi diasporic communities, including comparative regional perspectives: To what degree does Iraq form part of a wider regional trend of re-negotiating narratives of national belonging, both on the level of state sponsored discourses and on the level of civil society activism? The temporal focus is on the Baathist period as well as on the broader context of Iraqi history in the 20th and 21st centuries, including the question of path dependencies after 2003.


Nadje Al-Ali (Brown University, USA)
Hamit Bozarslan (EHESS – École des hautes études en sciences sociales, France)
Dina Khoury (George Washington University, USA)
Achim Rohde (Academy in Exile, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany)
Eckart Woertz (German Institute for Global and Area Studies and University of Hamburg, Germany)

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