Ungovernable Life: The Unmaking of Biopolitics in Iraq

During the last 20 years, Iraq’s doctors have been at the forefront of wars fought silently and obliquely during the Gulf Wars, the brutal twelve years of sanctions, and the 2003 invasion and occupation. In this instance, however, the figure of the doctor is not one of mere practitioner of medicine, but one whose activities take place in the nexus of competing biopolitical projects that pitted Iraqi powers against those of the United States and the United Nations. In this talk, I interrogate the social and medical dimensions of state “failure” in light of the historical and present day claims of Iraq’s so-called “ungovernability.” Drawing on historical and ethnographic research from my forthcoming book, Ungovernable Life: War and Mandatory Medicine in Iraq, I focus on how such politics of ungovernability, which are both produced and disavowed by the state, become entangled in the everyday biomedical management of afflicted bodies in Iraq during more than two decades of US-military interventions in the country.