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Targeting the cultural history of Iraq : implications for national identity and democracy

conference contribution
posted on 01.01.2009, 00:00 authored by Benjamin IsakhanBenjamin Isakhan
Since its inception in 1921, a number of successive regimes have sought to politicize Iraq’s cultural history in order to build nationalistic sentiment and social cohesion across this rich and complex nation. Foremost among these were the Baath party, particularly under the rule of Saddam Hussein, who used much of the nation’s Oil wealth to undergo an extensive nation-building campaign. However, with the invasion of Iraq by the US in 2003 came the deliberate destruction and blatant negligence of the occupying forces. In addition, Iraqi civilians targeted the cultural landscape of their nation with wanton looting and arson, as well as systematic attacks on sites of archaeological or ethno-religious significance. More recently, the Shia and Kurdish dominated Iraqi Government have organised the “Committee for Removing Symbols of the Saddam Era” and plan to purge the state of its Sunni dominated past. This paper argues that the destruction of Iraq’s cultural history has played a part in eroding the national identity that many of these symbols and institutions were designed to promulgate. In turn, this has brought about the rise of ethno/religious sectarianism in Iraq which has had particular implications for the nation’s fledgling democratic order.



International Society for Cultural History. Conference (2nd: 2009 : Brisbane, Queensland)




Brisbane, Qld.

Place of publication

[Brisbane, Qld.]

Start date


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Publication classification

E1.1 Full written paper - refereed

Copyright notice

2009, ISCH

Title of proceedings

ISCH 2009 : Cultures of violence and conflict : Proceedings of the 2009 International Society for Cultural History Conference, University of Queensland

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