Current Institutional Affiliation
Director, Institute of Regional & International Studies (IRIS)

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2016
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University
Iraqis' Cancer Itineraries: Transnational Negotiations of Life and Death

Following Iraqi families piecing together treatments between Beirut, Lebanon and the Iraqi Kurdish capital, Erbil, I aim to understand how illness, dying and loss are negotiated in a transnational assemblage of cancer care. The two cities form part of a broader geography of care-seeking emerging in relation to the war-induced deterioration of the once robust Iraqi healthcare infrastructure. Since 2003 families have increasingly pooled resources and sought life-saving treatments in Iraqi Kurdistan, Iran, Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and even India. Self-funded treatment itineraries overlap with government-sponsored delegations. The Iraqi Ministry of Health has made contracts with hospitals in Lebanon, Turkey and India to administer treatments that the Baghdad-based Ministry can no longer provide, including complex procedures such as bone marrow transplants for leukemia and reconstructive surgeries for blasts. This emerging transnational institutional apparatus of care also includes management of the dead: The Iraqi Ministry of Health now partially covers the cost of the transport of corpses from Beirut back to Iraq for burial, the majority of which are marked as cancer-related deaths. As transnationalism brings a challenge to social science in terms delimiting the scale of study, one of the proposals of this research takes up is too look at how transnational assemblages of cancer care are constituted through quotidian practices and spaces. These spaces include Beirut and Erbil hotels, restaurants, apartment buildings and markets where Iraqis come together in their journey of seeking care. It is in these mundane spaces in which people exchange information, develop relationships, and share the burdens of illness as well as losses accrued under a history of war. Thus my research will explore transnational negotiations of illness, dying, and loss both at the level of institutions as well as at the more intimate levels of family and the transitory relationships of a journey.