April 10, 2018, 5:30pm
“Toppling” Saddam Hussein in London: Media, Meaning, and the Construction of an Iraqi Diasporic Community
Presenter: Zainab Saleh
Location: TBA

This talk by Zainab Saleh interrogates the reaction of Iraqis in London to the live coverage of the fall of Saddam Hussein’s statue during the US occupation of Iraq in 2003, which transformed their experience of temporality and their diasporic connections to homeland. She argues that the fall of the statue transformed the Iraqi communities in London from exilic ones – defined by enforced absence, and limited contact with Iraq – into a single diasporic one defined by transnational connections and transmigration. Furthermore, this moment was first and foremost a diasporic event. On the one hand, while it opened up the national space of Iraq to the communities in London, it entailed the disconnect of most Iraqis in Iraq from it due to lack of electricity and the ban on acquiring satellites under Hussein’s regime. On the other hand, it brought Iraqis in London together as a community unified over the fall of the regime, and allayed the deep divisions within the communities. This communal watching of this event made possible the imagination of a “better” Iraq, which sutured together divided exilic communities into a national body and constituted a rupture between two realities, namely the reality of authoritarianism and the reality of US occupation.

Penn Middle East Center