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Words Without Borders

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Arabic literature--Iraq


A decade after the U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq, we cannot approach Iraqi literature today without recognizing the multiple shifts and varieties in its expression. In a matter of ten years, the post-Ba'thist era has witnessed the sudden fall of a long-lasting dictatorship, an encounter with Western occupation, and an unprecedented upsurge in sectarian discourses, to name only the most prominent events. In addition to these influences, the development of contemporary Iraqi literature is the product of several fluctuations in cultural expression that span the bulk of the twentieth century. The abrupt transitions from the Hashemite monarchy (1932–58) to 'Abd al-Karim Qasim’s regime (1958–63), the dictatorship of the Ba'th Party (1968–2003), the embargo years (1991–2003), and finally the post-2003 occupation era punctuate the ideological schisms and fractious state-writer relationship. The literary shifts also highlight the emergence of civic society in Iraq, the dynamics within the public sphere, and the ideological makeup of the various state-controlled cultural projects.


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