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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 April 2012


There is a stock argument on whether Iraq is an “artificial” creation of colonial power or a “real” entity with historical and psychological depth and identity. It is a futile question because all nation–states, in one form or another, are historical creations. The processes of their creation are diverse and lead to different outcomes in the degree of coherence and permanence. Our thinking on the subject has been highly influenced by the seminal concepts advanced by Benedict Anderson on the “imagining” of the nation, which is, in turn, underlined by the socioeconomic processes of modernity. The state, often superimposed from above, is a principal actor in this process. Educational systems, tied to qualifications and employment, for instance, are powerful means of enforcing a unified national language and, in turn, the medium of literacy, the press and media, and the means of imagining the nation. The state makes the nation, more or less successfully. The intelligentsia are the cadres of these processes. They and the state class, with which they overlap, are subject to the vagaries of political conflicts and struggles and, in the case of Middle Eastern states, to the repression and violence of the state and militant sectors of the population. In the case of Iraq these troublesome manifestations are particularly evident. The books under review are concerned with these processes and in particular with the role of the ideological cadres and institutions in their unfolding.

Review Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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1 Anderson, Benedict, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso Books, 1983)Google Scholar.

2 al-Din, Yusif ʿIzz, al-Rusafi Yarwi Sirat Hayatihi (al-Rusafi Narrates his Life Story) (Damascus: al-Mada, 2004)Google Scholar contains passages of autobiography as well as biographical details by the author.

3 On al-Zahawi's life and work see al-Rashudi, ʿAbd al-Hamid, al-Zahawi: Dirasat wa-Nusus (al-Zahawi: Studies and Texts) (Beirut: Matbaʿat al-Hayat, 1966)Google Scholar.

4 Berkes, Niyazi, The Development of Secularism in Turkey (London: Hurst 1998 [1964]), 276–81Google Scholar.

5 On al-Rusafi's and al-Zahawi's Ottomanism see Zubaida, Sami, “Iraqi Memoirs of Ottomans and Arabs: Maʿruf al-Rusafi and Jamil Sidqi al-Zahawi,” in Istanbul as Seen from a Distance, ed. Ozdalga, Elisabeth, Ozervarli, Sait, and Tansug, Feryal (Istanbul: Swedish Research Institute, 2011), 193202Google Scholar.

6 See Zubaida, Sami, “al-Jawahiri: Between Patronage and Revolution,” Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Mediterranee (L'Irak en perspective) 117–18 (2006): 8197Google Scholar.

7 See also Abdul-Jabar, Faleh, “Sheikhs and Ideologues: Deconstruction and Reconstruction of Tribes under Patrimonial Totalitarianism in Iraq, 1968–1998,” in Tribes and Power: Nationalism and Ethnicity in the Middle East, ed. Abdul-Jabar, Faleh and Dawod, Hosham (London: al-Saqi, 2003), 69109Google Scholar.