Skip to main content Accessibility help


  • Sami Zubaida

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.

Corresponding author
Sami Zubaida is a Professor of Politics and Sociology at Birkbeck, University of London, London, U.K.; e-mail:
Hide All


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

2 al-Din, Yusif ʿIzz, al-Rusafi Yarwi Sirat Hayatihi (al-Rusafi Narrates his Life Story) (Damascus: al-Mada, 2004) 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).

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

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), 193202.

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): 8197.

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), 69109.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

International Journal of Middle East Studies
  • ISSN: 0020-7438
  • EISSN: 1471-6380
  • URL: /core/journals/international-journal-of-middle-east-studies
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed