Iraqi Sociologist Speaks at Sociology Cafe
The director of the Iraqi Institute for Strategic Studies, Faleh Abdel
Jabbar, discussed the nation and ethnicity in Iraq in the first Sociology
Café gathering of the academic year that was held on October 17
at T-Marbouta Café in Hamra.
In the lecture, entitled "Ethnicity, Nationness and Statehood: the
Case in Iraq," Abdel Jabbar introduced three schools of thought dealing
with the idea of "nationness." The first is the modernist school,
which sees nations as the result of modernity, industrialism, free society,
science, and culture. The second school of thought says that nations predate
industrialism, as they are formed by language and culture. And the third
school, personalized by Anthony Smith, sees the nation as a compromise
between the first two schools.
Starting with the basic definition of nation, Abdel Jabbar referred to
"culture," as a nationalist marker of different groups and a
sign of exclusiveness, which includes languages and race. He then discussed
nationness as a result of unified markets, such as currencies and other
material webs that unite individuals. In addition, there is a cultural
web, made up of the press, universities, print capitalism, and the media.
The third is the political apparatus. "Some nations develop the three
systems into one unit. Some nations start from a unified market and culture.
Only then can a unified political apparatus emerge," Abdel Jabbar
said. As for developing countries, they do it the opposite way round and
are what are called "artificial nations."
The Arab states, previously part of the Ottoman Empire, faced two layers
of identity and therefore two levels of communication: one is the elite
and the other is the Islamic identity. In Iraq, social identification
was fragmented along religious or sectarian or tribal lines.
"At the moment, there is a fragmentation of identities [In Iraq]
beyond imagination," Abdel Jabbar said. "National groups are
in different multinational stages." He noted how the British drew
Iraq's boundaries and built railways to connect otherwise loosely connected
administrative units, namely Mosul, Basra, and Baghdad. The British then
installed the political apparatus. Modern private ownership of land was
introduced, which created the new Iraqi multiethnic aristocracy.
Abdel Jabbar concluded by discussing Iraq's current situation, saying:
"Now, the local identity is hyper- fragmented beyond Sunni, Shiite.
and Kurds. Iraqis are renegotiating their identities. Forming identities
in Iraq now involves the bulk of national wealth, and controlling the
government is controlling the economy and the wealth, which makes it fierce."