Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, Anthropology, Franklin & Marshall College

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2006
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Cultural Anthropology, University of Michigan
Eden Again?: The Technologies of Nostalgia and Reconstruction in Iraq's Marshes

To rebuild Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the UN argues that the restoration of the southern marshes is critically important. They assert that the project is imperative to repatriate thousands of exiled Marsh Arabs desperately longing for their homeland (UNEP 2001). Over 50 million U.S. dollars has been raised for the project of reviving the marshes; privately contracted engineering firms, members of the E.U. Parliament, NGOs, and a number of states-including the U.S., Italy, Japan, and Canada-are working tirelessly on this project, asserting the urgent need to address and rectify the assault on the marshes and their inhabitants by Saddam Hussein and his government. But Marsh Arabs, who have been living as refugees in places like Iran, say they do not want to go back (CBC News 4/14/04). Instead, they express ambivalence about the restoration of the marshes and the possibility of their return. Of his life in the marshes Abdul asserts, "We lived that life and ifs gone now. We have a new life. We're used to working as farmers now, and we can't leave it" (CBC News 4/14/04). Why, then, is it so essential to reconstruct the marshes? If Marsh Arabs do not want to return, for whom are the marshes being restored and for what purpose? I posit that efforts to resuscitate the area do not stem primarily from a concern over the welfare of Marsh Arabs, but instead may be designed to promote international investments and nationalist agendas. In my research I will investigate what the restoration of the marshes reveals about the reconstruction of Iraq in general and the struggle to define the future of the nation.