Dr. Sara Pursley, New York University
March 31, 2017 

Iraq has been a site of near continuous warfare for almost three decades. This has often been blamed on something inherently wrong with “Iraq” itself, based on the assertion that it is a British-created entity in which many different ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups were artificially forced to live together. Yet “Iraq” has also served as a unifying idea and inspiration for Iraqi citizens belonging to all these groups at various points in the country’s history. This talk will explore ways in which “Iraq” has functioned as an idea, from the state’s formation after World War I to the Islamic State’s attempt to dismantle the Iraq-Syria border starting in 2014. Was Iraq a flawed and hopeless idea from the beginning? Or has it, on the contrary, been a remarkably resilient idea? And what do these questions have to do with the challenges facing Iraqis today?

Dr. Sara Pursley is an assistant professor in the department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University. She is the author of numerous articles on modern Iraqi history and her first book, Familiar Futures: Time, Selfhood, and Sovereignty in Iraq, 1920-63, is in contract with Stanford University Press. Pursley was a postdoctoral fellow at the Society of Fellows, Princeton University, from 2014-16, and served as associate editor of the International Journal of Middle East Studies from 2009-14.

Supported by New Mexico Humanities Council and Sandia National Labs