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Tag: Iraq

“I was nowhere”

RefugeesBy Marie Linne    Dalal contacted me during my fieldwork among refugees who aspire to study in the Netherlands. She agreed to meet with me for an interview, to talk about her experiences as a refugee and as a student in the VASVU programme at VU University Amsterdam. It is a 9 month long programme, that tries to function as a bridging programme for international students before they enter a Dutch Bachelors programme. About 80 percent of the students are refugees, and the course provides them with the basics in different subjects. It is mostly set up with the aim to bring everyone to the same level, enabling them to enter a Dutch university programme afterwards easier. At the same time it is already a sort of integrational course, to get students used to the language, pace and the way of studying in the Netherlands.

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An Iraqi view on the Netherlands

By Ali Taher, visiting researcher from Iraq at the SCA-department of the VU  To begin with: It gives me a strange feeling when I see how the people in the Netherlands openly express their emotions. As a visitor from Iraq it is really interesting for me to see “lovers” and “couples” walking together in the center of Amsterdam, embracing each other, and nothing preventing them to interchange very hot kisses amidst the noise of a busy market !

Every day walking in the beautiful city streets, I continue thinking about all the differences  between Iraqi and Dutch society.  One of the differences is the kind of everyday embarrassing feeling I have at lunch time. You cannot imagine how shocked I was when I saw one of the girls in VU University choose only one apple as her lunch, although we had been together from early morning… It was unbelievable to see one of the professors who behaved no better than the girl, when he chose some soup with only three pieces of biscuit!  I really don’t know how the people here stay alive when they eat almost nothing! It is embarrassing for me to realize I need to eat three times more than what they eat (at least), to feel saturated! Also the taste of the food here is far removed from the taste in Iraq, which is known for its fatty and salty food.

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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).