Familiar Futures
Time, Selfhood, and Sovereignty in Iraq
Sara Pursley

BUY THIS BOOK


Contents and Abstracts
Introduction: Iraqi Futures and the Age of Development
chapter abstract

This chapter introduces the central concepts of the book. Modern Iraqi futures were familiar because they were produced through reforms of familial and other intimate practices, imagined to already be somebody else's past or present, and paradoxically reproductive of existing forms of unevenness. They were also disrupted by other imaginaries of the future, which might be familiar because they were drawn from Islamic discursive traditions or were near or close futures that might be realizable because they have some connection to the present. These last discourses stood outside, and sometimes against, the modern political and conjugal imaginary of reproductive futurism, in which the figure of the child embodies the nation's yearned-for but congenitally receding future. The chapter also looks at how Iraq was an overdetermined space for the coming together of three previously distinct conceptions of development in the interwar period: the economic, the national, and the psychobiological.

1 Sovereignty, Violence, and the Dual Mandate
chapter abstract

This chapter looks at British practices in governing Iraq in the occupation and mandate eras (1914<->32). While British officials often invoked discourses emphasizing the psychological underdevelopment and sexual nondifferentiation of Iraqi subjects, this did not lead to their support for the expansion of modern biopolitical or disciplinary institutions in Iraq. British governance was primarily necropolitical, relying on violent punitive techniques such as hanging, whipping, corvée labor, bombing or burning down villages, and cutting off water and food to rebellious towns. The chapter traces how these practices were implicated in the production of Iraq as a bounded territorial space over which post-Ottoman sovereignty could be asserted and economic development, as the extraction of resources, carried out. The use of corporeal violence in mandate Iraq, while hardly exceptional in the history of the British empire, was shaped by new technologies of rule and explained through emerging narratives of developmental psychology.

2 Determining a Self
chapter abstract

Iraqi nationalist elites in the 1920s and 1930s called for the expansion of disciplinary and biopolitical techniques, in opposition to British policy. This chapter explores education and the military as key domains in which these struggles played out, mainly in this period over the bodies and minds of male youth, and engages with the writings of the Arab nationalist and "father of Iraqi education" Sati al-Husri. In contrast to usual scholarly concerns with the (Arabist or Iraqist) content of nationalist narratives prevalent in Iraq's schools and military, the chapter explores these institutions as temporal-spatial regimes that worked to make a sovereign Iraqi future familiar even while temporally deferring it. An emerging Arabist and statist discourse envisioned precocious demands for Iraq's independence as symptoms of backwardness, not progress, and accused those making such demands of being both less modern and less Iraqi than those working toward a deferred sovereignty.

3 The Gendering of School Time
chapter abstract

This chapter explores how the curriculum and pedagogies implemented in the 1920s were challenged in the 1930s by a new generation of education officials, many of whom were educated in the United States. Influenced by American conceptual vocabularies of pragmatism and adapted education, the new educators criticized the unified school curriculum implemented by al-Husri's ministry, calling for a "differentiated curriculum" governed by the urban-rural difference and the male-female difference. From 1932 to 1958, often in response to the advice of US and global development organizations, the Iraqi school system was increasingly differentiated by sex, with more and more of the school time of female students devoted to mandatory home economics education. The chapter proposes that this peculiarity makes Iraq a productive context for examining pedagogies of domesticity in the late interwar and postwar periods.

4 Generational Time and the Marriage Crisis
chapter abstract

In the years around World War II, Iraqi officials were increasingly concerned that a crisis was brewing in the form of a generation of educated youth who were taking up leftist ideologies. This chapter explores how generational affiliations produced largely by the expansion of public schooling—often in combination with extended family ties along intragenerational lines, that is, between siblings and cousins—worked to foster political mobilization within the underground but hugely popular Iraqi Communist Party (ICP). The widespread sense of generational crisis was expressed in three more specific crises prominent in public discourse during these years: the crisis of adolescence, the crisis of girls' education, and the marriage crisis. Efforts to intervene in and stabilize the stage of adolescence drew on new, globally circulating psychological theories as well as on specific forms of postwar economic development expertise. Conceptions of modern sexual difference and desire were central to these interventions.

5 The Family Farm and the Peculiar Futurist Perspective of Development
chapter abstract

The chapter examines efforts to reform rural families on the Dujayla Land Settlement Project, one of the world's first programs attracting the new international organizations founded after 1945 to launch the global "age of development." The idea was to create a class of small "family" farmers by distributing land to some of the landless poor. Yet the isolated family farm model used to design the settlement, which was based on US Cold War modernization and agrarian reform theory, contributed to ecological and social catastrophe. The nuclear family type, while failing to take hold as a widespread social reality in rural Iraq, had significant effects on rural lives. By working as a standardized grid for development operations, this model altered agricultural practices and thus the land, while making certain kinds of "family" relationships legible so that they could be worked on by techniques of governmentality and development.

6 Revolutionary Time and Wasted Time
chapter abstract

After the 1958 revolution, state officials and political party leaders stressed the need to combat "stagnation" in the economy and the bodies of laborers. The word used for this condition was jumud, "a frozen state." Many agreed on the need to "suspend" or "to freeze" various kinds of political mobilization in the present. Sexual difference was crucial to both parts of this process: the conquering of economic stagnation or jumud and the enforcement of political stagnation or tajmid. The chapter focuses on a controversy over a communist women's rural literacy project, which critics saw as violating the tacit terms of the alliance between the state and middle-class feminists. The project was not believed to propagate techniques for the policing of families in the name of the child's and the nation's future, but to be a symptom of social promiscuity threatening the political order.

7 Law and the Post-Revolutionary Self
chapter abstract

This chapter examines the 1959 Personal Status Law, Iraq's first unified national family code under the control of the state. It argues that the law's drive to make marriage more stable, while simultaneously making the conjugal home less permeable to strangers, discloses the use of a reproductive-futurist reasoning to create a properly modern and timeless domestic sphere. The chapter explores responses to the law from communists, Bathists, liberals, and Sunni and Shii ulama'. It considers a Shii juristic critique by the mujtahid Muhammad Bahr al-Ulum, who argued that the law only appeared to promote progressive change, while actually replacing the temporally and spatially dynamic Islamic systems of jurisprudence with legal stasis. This critique suggests a key difference between the modern state's tendency to produce a static space and earlier Islamic understandings of "the state," or al-dawla, as cyclical and thus ever-changing.

Epilogue: Postcolonial Heterotemporalitiess
chapter abstract

The epilogue explores a famous work by the artist Jawad Salim, Nusb al-Hurriyya, or the Monument to Freedom, which still stands in Baghdad's Liberation Square. The work has usually been read as a linear-historical narrative of the Iraqi nationalist movement and the 1958 revolution it produced. Engaging with a rich tradition of Arabic language art criticism on the monument, the chapter shows how this work also evokes multiple and heterogeneous conceptions of time, often drawn from the Islamic discursive tradition, that can be read as subversive of contemporary developmentalist reasoning. For example, Islamic cyclical imaginaries of time do not work against promises of radical historical change in the monument but on the contrary give such promises more imaginative purchase than they typically achieve in linear modernization narratives, with their tendency to open onto a singular and static future.