UCL Department of Geography


Rethinking Britain’s Iraq War Through Art

25 October 2019

Alan Ingram’s new book explores the role of art in understanding political events

Rethinking Britain’s Iraq War Through Art

A new book by Dr Alan Ingram re-examines Britain’s role in the disastrous 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq by considering artworks and exhibitions created in response to the events.

Geopolitics and the Event: Rethinking Britain’s Iraq War Through Art describes how artists of diverse heritages experienced the war, the artworks they created, how these works have been brought into the public realm, and the responses and debates they have created.

Alan draws on dozens of artworks and exhibitions, interviews with artists, curators and activists, and his own experience of curating an exhibition of Iraq war art at UCL in 2013. He argues that artworks can play an essential role in understanding political events. In this case, the critical and creative agency of Iraqis has been more to the fore in art than in other spheres of British public and political life. This supports a multiple-perspectives on the war, extending the understanding of its causes and consequences well beyond the period of occupation.

Artworks should not be regarded simply as evidence or representations of events. They are creative experiments that may play an active role in reshaping feelings, perceptions and understanding, as demonstrated by responses to a replica of an Assyrian winged bull deity on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square in 2018-19, which is used to open and close the book.

As well as a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship and a UCL Beacon Bursary for Public Engagement, Alan explains, ‘the book also could not have been written without the generosity and assistance of many artists, curators, librarians and archivists who shared with me their experiences, knowledge and work’.

The book is published by Wiley as part of the prestigious RGS-IBG Book Series, and a blog post providing an introduction to some of its main arguments and examples has been published on the RGS Geography Directions site. It was also launched at an Author Meets Critics session at the 2019 Annual International Conference of the RGS/IBG and at a panel discussion at the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies.

Issues raised by the book are being incorporated into Alan’s teaching of political geography and geopolitics across the UCL Geography undergraduate and masters programmes.


Geopolitics and the Event: Rethinking Britain’s Iraq War Through Art (Wiley RGS-IBG Book Series 2019)