Alda Benjamen, the Avimalek Betyousef Post-Doctoral Fellow in Assyrian History at UC Berkeley will be joined by Simon Brelaud, Avimalek Betyousef Visiting Assistant Professor to discuss her research and forthcoming book, Assyrians in Modern Iraq: Negotiating Political and Cultural Space (Cambridge UP).
"Assyrians in Modern Iraq" examines the relationship between a stronger Iraqi state under the Baʿth regime, which began in 1968, and the Assyrians, a Christian ethno-religious group. This is the first monograph-length study of the role of minorities in twentieth-century Iraqi cultural history based on extensive research inside the country that foregrounds the perspective of the Iraqi periphery and includes gendered representation of women. It explores Assyrian notions of citizenship through autobiographies and archival documents, including police and census records that were uncovered at the Iraqi National Archives in Baghdad, and in libraries and private collections in Erbil, Duhok, and Mosul, in Arabic, and modern Aramaic.
The book shifts the focus away from Baghdad, the object of most academic inquiry, to highlight relations between the center and the periphery in northern Iraq, as well as in the diaspora. It deepens our understanding of Iraqi provincial history, since Iraqi Assyrians engaged within leftist movements were active in rural areas as well. A rich history of bilingualism and multiculturalism is revealed, challenging the idea of a monolingual Arabic-language culture advanced by the Iraqi state.