Dr Faleh JABBAR: Iraq - State in Search of a Nation
This talk discusses the historical path of nation-building in Iraq since its inception in 1921. The major trajectory runs through several phases: First, voluntary integration embedded in free market economy and open venues of political, cultural, administrative, and other forms of participation; second the disruption of unifying mechanism as a result of imposing single-party system command economy and cultural monism. Third the imposition and failure of state nationalism; and fourth the the rise and decline of sectarian and ethnic identity politics. Nation-building in heterogeneous, agrarian (i.e. pre-national) societies depends on the will of peaceful cohabitation: common interests and forgetfulness of past grievances. Disruption of voluntary integration tears the ‘national fabric apart’. This is the history of nation building in Iraq, and perhaps other Middle Eastern countries. The politicization/ militarization of sub- ‘national’ identities that tears down unity at present is not an inevitable consequence of the mere existence of ethno-communal (religious or otherwise) groups per se. States may achieve success, or may fail in building a ‘national’ (here territorial) community. Failure or success in the creation of a viable sate-nationalism is not a once-and-for-all ‘given’; rather it is fluid, sustained by complex structural conditions.
Dr Faleh A. Jabbar is an expert on Iraq and Middle Eastern politics and sociology. His areas of expertise are religion, Islamism, social organization, political systems and cultural discourses. He has attended world forums and seminars organized, by UNESCO, UN-ESCWA, ECSSR, IISS, RIIA, RISQ and has lectured – amongst others - at Harvard, LSE and SciencesPo. He has delivered lectures and papers on Arab culture, globalization and the Middle East, Islam, state and religion, tribes and social formations. Some of his publications in English include: The Shi'ite Movement in Iraq (2003), Tribes and Power in the Middle East (2002), and Ayatollahs, Sufis and Ideologues (2002). He is an author for the International Crisis Group (ICG). He has written a number of papers on Iraq, Islamism in general and Shi'ism in particular, He is also a frequent contributor to Le Monde Diplomatique, The Middle East Research and Information Project, The Financial Times and The Times.