Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, Film & Media Studies, University of California / Santa Barbara

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2009
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Architectural & Urban Planning, University of California / Berkeley
Petroleum's Promise: Imaginaries of the Nation-State and Modernity in Baghdad 1948-1958

In the decade before the 1958 Revolution in Iraq, the pro-British regime and the British-owned Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC) invested in the production and circulation of evocative media that equated petroleum extraction with the development and modernization of Baghdad. These representations of national and urban development schemes funded by government shares of IPC profits served to constitute an imaginary of Baghdad as the capital of a unified and sovereign modern nation-state in a moment where contestation over national identity and sentiments against the British ran high in the country. However, existing scholarship on development and modernization in pre-Revolutionary Iraq has ignored the barrage of IPC and government films, magazines, brochures, and news media produced during the 1950s and the significant role this media played in the British project of nation-building in the petroleum-rich region. This project will examine the ways in which the representational and material spaces of urbanization in Baghdad produced between 1948 and 1958 were co-constitutive of and constituted by imaginaries of Iraq as a modern and sovereign nation-state. Further, this project will examine whether and how these imaginaries may have served the British and Iraqi regimes as a means to manage political contestation over national identity and heightening anti-colonial sentiments rooted in Baghdad. After completing the proposed twelve months of archival research in key sites in and around London, this research will contribute a better understanding of the role that representational media has played in the history of development and nation-building in the modern Middle East. This project has clear resonance in the contemporary moment where discourses on developing and modernizing Iraq have reemerged since 2003 as central aspects of international debates on the American occupation of Iraq.