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Environment in Context / Cement, War and Toxicity: The Materialities of Displacement in Iraq

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Environment in Context
Cement, War and Toxicity: The Materialities of Displacement in Iraq
{{langos=='en'?('01/06/2020' | todate):('01/06/2020' | artodate)}} - Issue 7.1
Hosted by Huma Gupta , Gabi Kirk

Co-editors of Jadaliyya's Environment Page, Huma Gupta and Gabi Kirk, discussed with Kali Rubaii how ecologies of war have produced multiple waves of displacement and have intimately shaped the lives of displaced Iraqis through the materiality of cement.

Introduction:

News agencies and international organizations often talk about displacement in abstract, statistical terms. For instance, in Iraq, there are currently more than one and a half-million internally displaced people. However, today we will discuss how ecologies of war have produced multiple waves of displacement and have intimately shaped the lives of displaced Iraqis through the materiality of cement. In the early twentieth century, British occupying forces and the subsequent mandatory government popularized the use of Portland cement. The developmental projects of the Monarchic, Republican and Ba'athist regimes further promoted the production and use of cement, which is an integral component of concrete in infrastructure projects, like dams, prisons, and mass housing. More recently, after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, the Coalition Provisional Authority built thousands of t-walls and blast proof wall segments in the name of security. Though, in cities like Baghdad, they often functioned as sectarian borders. Thus, the global concrete industry represented by corporations like the LaFarge Group and local cement factories play an important role in the securitization of space. But these are the more familiar stories of the lives and after-lives of modern building materials in major cities across Iraq. We are speaking today with Dr. Kali Rubaii, who will take us to the “cement valley” in Bazian, which is 30 kilometers away from Sulaymaniyah in Kurdistan in order to defamiliarize us from the ways in which we think about cement.

References:

1. Kali Rubaii's Academia.edu Profile for list of publications
https://ucdavis.academia.edu/KaliRubaii
2. Concrete and Livability in Occupied Palestine
https://aesengagement.wordpress.com/2016/09/20/concrete-and-livability-in-occupied-palestine/
3. The Islah Reparations Project
https://reparations.org/
4. Envisioning the Postwar: Kali Rubaii Speaking at NYU
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nub5U9aI8vw

Guests

Kali Rubaii
Kali Rubaii

Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Purdue University

Dr. Rubaii is an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at Purdue University. She has a joint appointment as a Chancellor's postdoctoral fellow at University of California, Davis. Before that, she was an Andrew Mellon postdoctoral research fellow at Rice University. She earned her PhD in Cultural Anthropology at University of California, Santa Cruz and her BA in International Relations at University of California, Davis.

Her research explores the environmental impacts of less-than-lethal militarism, and how military projects (re)arrange political ecologies in the name of “letting live.” Her book project, Counter-resurgency: the Ecology of Coercion, examines how farmers in Anbar, Iraq struggle to survive and recover from transnational counterinsurgency projects. Taking toxicity as an analytic for material politics, Rubaii's book highlights the alterlives of war objects as they facilitate certain relations among humans, ghosts, plants, animals, and molecular agents, while precluding others. Kali is also the co-founder of the Islah Reparations Project.

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