ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Rethinking Medicine and Nation-building in Iraq

Ethnographic and Historical Perspectives

Ungovernable Life: Mandatory Medicine and Statecraft in Iraq by Omar Dewachi; Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2017; pp xiii+239, price not indicated.


Ungovernable Life: Mandatory Medicine and Statecraft in Iraq is at once an ethnographic and historical account of medicine and nation-building in Iraq, from a Foucauldean perspective. As the author puts it in the preface, the research questions that drive the monograph are inspired by his personal experiences of growing up in Iraq and medical training in the aftermath of the Gulf War (1991). In his monograph, Omar Dewachi offers a compelling yet disturbing account of the genesis of Iraqi state medicine under the British mandate, and its dissolution following the end of the Gulf War.

Excluding the introduction and the conclusion, the book is organised into seven chapters. The chapters collectively trace the modernist agenda of Iraqi medicine. First, under the British administration between 1920 and 1932 (Mandatory Iraq), physicians were charged with moderni­sing the nation along Western lines. Second, the author explores the transition from British-backed monarchy to the socialist era (1958–1980). Third, between 1980 and 1988, during the war against Iran, the Iraqi state mobilised medicine as an instrument of nation-building. Finally—subsequent to the conclusion of the Gulf War—the author describes the dismemberment of state medicine, first under the United Nations (UN)-sponsored sanctions, and later in the aftermath of the United States (US) invasion (2003 to present).

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Updated On : 7th Dec, 2018
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