The Nahrein Network



Cultural (dis)continuity, political trajectories and the state in post – 2003 Iraq

Mehiyar Kathem


Cultural continuity and the political trajectories of states are intimately intertwined. What happens to state institutions, how they are transformed through the interventions of external and domestic actors, affects heritage and its continuity in myriad ways. This paper looks at heritage in relation to the state and sites of power through the prism of cultural continuity, which can offer a more nuanced and historical perspective of the field of heritage in situations of change, transformation and conflict. It examines the repercussions of Iraq’s political system based on political quotas installed under the occupation of Iraq, where state institutions, including those of heritage, are allocated as electoral windfalls to competing political groups. The ensuing institutional disorder, absence of centralised rule and multiplicity of overlapping power structures in the country have detrimentally affected the conditions of Iraq’s heritage. International heritage interventions too have been largely ineffective in the face of the catastrophic damage inflicted on the sector since 2003. I argue that the fragmentation of state institutions and on the other hand a weak international heritage infrastructure, concerned mainly with its own priorities, has left Iraq’s heritage in a perpetual state of crisis that has not been addressed in any meaningful way.

Read the full article at the following link: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13527258.2020.1858140?journalCode=rjhs20

Museum displays and the creation of the ancient Middle East: A view from the Ashmolean and the British Museum

Paul Collins

Chapter in Emberling G. (edit), Museums and the Ancient Middle East: curatorial practice and audiences, 1st Edition2018, Routledge, p. 15-26, 9780815349723.

Preview the publications at the following link: https://www.routledge.com/Museums-and-the-Ancient-Middle-East-Curatorial...

Heritage peacebuilding in Iraq

Mehiyar Kathem

Read the full article at the following link: https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/north-africa-west-asia/heritage-peacebu...

Decolonising Babylon

Mehiyar Kathem


The popular imagination and the intellectual study of Babylon generally exclude any notion or understanding of the people who live most closely to it. Inscribed in 2019 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, little is known about the ways in which Babylon, located in Iraq’s Babil province, is viewed by the Iraqi people, most notably by the residents of al Hillah, the provincial capital. Institutional legacies and political structures brought about by the quest to capture and appropriate Babylon by US-European Empires, the rule of dictatorships and more recently the US Occupation as well as the outcomes of post-2003 sectarian-promoted politics, have constituted heritage trajectories that have been dispossessive and exclusionary of people from negotiating sustainable connections to Iraq’s ancient history. In this context, this paper examines Iraqi perspectives of those living and working in close proximity to Babylon and the ways in which connections to the historical site are negotiated in everyday life.

Decolonising Babylon, in the International Journal of Heritage Studies, December 2020, RJHS 1858140, DOI:10.1080/13527258.2020.1858140

Read the full article at the following link: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13527258.2020.1858140 

Iraqi Jews and Heritage under Threat: Negotiating and Managing Identity from Afar

Andrews, S


This article looks at the case of Ezekiel’s shrine in Kifl, Iraq. The shrine houses the grave of the Jewish prophet Ezekiel and originally consisted of a synagogue and associated buildings. Shiʽa Muslims claim it is a holy site for Muslims. Since Iraq’s Jews largely left Iraq after 1950 as a result of government repression, it is now controlled by the Iraqi Shiʽa Waqf. It has been largely changed into a mosque, with many Jewish elements having been removed. Too few Jews are left in Iraq to challenge this. This article asks how changes to this site play into notions of belonging and identity for Iraqi Jews today, as well as how the effects of pressure from dominant Jewish identities and a general ignorance of Arab Jewish identity interacts with this important site of memory. An analysis of the relationship between the site and Iraqi Jewish identity is conducted via on-site work and thirteen interviews with Iraqi Jews from around the world. It argues for the importance of the site and that heritage sites such as Ezekiel’s shrine are powerful sites for anchoring diasporic identities mnemonically. In the case where those identities are under strain, these sites serve a role to further strengthen and provide historical weight to claims of belonging. However, this relationship changes through generations because of internal and external identity and political pressures. Unchallengeable pressures increase the likelihood that memories are not passed on. The article argues for a dynamic understanding between site, politics, and identity.

Andrews, S, Iraqi Jews and Heritage under Threat: Negotiating and Managing Identity from Afar, in Diaspora, Volume 20, Issue 3, Winter 2011 (published Winter 2020), pp. 327-353, DOI: 10.3138/diaspora.20.3.004

Read the full article at the following link: https://www.utpjournals.press/doi/pdf/10.3138/diaspora.20.3.004