Urban Iraq in the Twentieth Century : Cross-Perspectives
Saturday, October 29th – Institut français d’Irak, Bagdad
Sunday, October 30th – Bayt Al-Hikma, Bagdad
Scholarship on “Arab cities and towns” has served as one of the major entry points to consider the Arab Middle-East since the 1930s. Studies have progressively focused on the expansive period which spans from the so-called classical Islamic era through to the final decades of the Ottoman Empire. These studies have also been the subject of well-known academic divisions – the opposition, for example, between A. Raymond’s functionalist approach and the work of D. Chevallier, who highlights sectarian bonds on the city. Other important works shed crucial light on the city as a political stage. D. Khoury, E. Burke, P. Khoury, N. Fuccaro, N. Lafi, P. Sluglett, among others, questioned the social fabric and its political impact. The sociologist Ali al-Wardi popularized the city as a key concept for analyzing the Middle-East. A brief overview of the existing literature, however, surfaces two neglected aspects in the current historiography.
The 20th century was a crucial period as it witnessed the massive urbanization of the region. Among the outcomes of rural exodus and internal development, the cities assumed a central place in different countries. At the same time, a new political landscape took shape following the First World War, with the emergence of new independent political entities and, later on, nation states. Iraq is a key actor in such an history.
Yet scholarship on cities in Iraq remains scarce when compared with other areas and periods of time. Geographers and anthropologists, and sometimes architects, have provided insights on Middle-Eastern cities (Boissière on Aleppo, Hourani on the Levant, Seurat on Tripoli, David, Arnaud and Friès on Damascus, Ilbert on Alexandria, Saliba and Ghorayeb on Beirut, Volait on Cairo, Ababsa on Amman among others). Yet, despite unpublished Iraqi PhD theses, only a few monographs have dealt with Iraqi towns during the 20th century (Chatelard, Mervin on Najaf, Fethi on traditional built heritage, Pieri on Baghdad, among others). Yet the 20th century proved to be the urban moment par excellence, with populations shifting towards large centers which concentrated activities, services but also informal settlements, etc.
The present conference aims to bring Iraqi and non-Iraqi scholars into dialogue in order to renew our understanding of the urban history of Iraq. It will focus on a long 20th century and specify the different paths followed by key towns in the country.
Contacts: Mahmoud al-Qaysi (+9647702643888) ; Thibaud Laval (+9647830214906) ; Cecilia Pieri (+33664480405) ; Matthieu Rey (+33649074223).