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Anthropology and Iraq

American sergeant Nick Crosby helps an Iraqi woman cross a water-filled street during a cordon and search mission in Al Risalah (by

I would like to react briefly to Lahay Hussein’s talk as well as to the concerns expressed in her earlier post. These concerns are primarily about (re)building a healthy and democratic political and social order, and within it a healthy academic discipline and educational system, from a condition in which academic qualifications and infrastructure are sorely inadequate. She expects this process to be inspired and aided by colleagues and institutions in the West.

These concerns are very different from the preoccupations of Western anthropologists when it comes to Iraq: imperialism; the complicity of anthropology in the occupation (a term Lahay herself disagrees with, preferring to use the term liberation); and, more generally, the expectation of staking out a critical anthropological position from a Middle Eastern/Muslim perspective vis-a-vis Western concepts (à la Lila Abu-Lughod, for example).

Iran elections(2): hitting the tweets

In her earlier post on this weblog, Donya pointed to remarkable transgressions on the eve of the national elections in Iran. In the public protests following the elections we see another major innovation: the unprecedented use of new digital media. The newest digital tools for social networking, especially Twitter and Facebook, turn out to be crucial means to mobilize people and report events to the outside world, as points out in this video:

This raises important questions for anthropologists. What role can new media play in making political agitation effective?


Iran elections(1): Crossing Red Lines

Photo by: Hapal
Photo by: Hapal

Color has never before played such an important part in an election campaign in Iran. As the country’s election developments are watched closely by the likes of Netanyahu, the Whitehouse, and other international powers with diplomatic stakes in the outcome, Iran’s bulging youth population have their own concerns in mind as they hit the streets in green. This is especially significant in a country where brightly colored clothing, especially when worn by women, is considered a breach of the Islamic dress code and frowned upon by the ruling mullahs.


Making of: documentary of the release of a Mexican prisoner

Foto: José Luis Hernández Barragán

So much is happening at our department, that we can’t keep track of it ourselves sometimes. Suddenly, Joan, a PhD student who is doing research on violence,  masculinity and substance abuse in Mexico, was gone to make a documentary about the release of a Mexican prisoner that she had been planning a long time. A report by Joan van Wijk.

1 Comment

Message from our Iraquain visitor

Lahay Hussain

It has been one month and a half for me in the Netherlands. Fascinating visit to a typical western culture. This is by itself a very moving experience on the personal level. Here one puts all the theories and ideas made by great American and European social theorists in the right context. They have been talking and interacting with this culture. The great works of Marx, Durkheim, Weber, Simmel, Mead, Park and the rest have been inspired and motivated by the ways of life and thinking of this culture. However, back home in Iraq, we (sociologists and anthropologists) continue to struggle to understand and fit these theories with our current social and cultural situation. Most of the time, they do not work except in an environment that makes the West its source of reference. I have no problem with this. I personally have been blessed by the west.