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The Politics of Population Movements in Contemporary Iraq: A Research Agenda

"This essay, in the form of a research agenda, focuses on the politics of population movements from the inception of the modern Iraqi state to the present. Based mainly on secondary sources, it asks questions, offers hypotheses and opens up a number of conceptual pathways in part drawing from Michel Foucault's notion of governmentality. It is proposed to consider how population movements were affected by the state and other political actors, particularly in the process of nation building and in recent struggles over the control of the state. Within this framework, displacement and policies restricting the mobility of people or forcing their emplacement in certain locations could be read as forms of control political actors have exerted over populations. Other instances of population movements can be interpreted as the uncontrolled results of policies of political or economic engineering, crises of the political system or political decisions leading to armed conflicts. It is suggested that, beyond the numerous and brutal ruptures in Iraqi political history, a study of the politics of population movements throughout the modern history of Iraq identifies some of the continuities that have existed in the exercise of power under successive regimes but also the sociological continuum that exists between states and would-be-states. A further argument is that examining the multiple effects of governmentality on human mobility and immobility in Iraq allows a possible reading of the way in which certain practices of power and certain political identities have been historically encoded leading to patterns of reproduction of violence."
Géraldine Chatelard
French Institute for the Near East
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