Death and Mourning in Contemporary Iraqi Texts
Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies
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While Judith Butler and others have in the last twenty years questioned whether brown, and especially Muslim, brown bodies, can possibly be accorded human status when they are so easily allowed to die, and so rarely mourned, a corpus of Iraqi literature and artistic practice, produced, or widely translated into English, has tackled the same questions but from a productively different subject position. In Butler’s terms a precarious life is a life with value, one that will be mourned and commemorated. The distinction between the two can be mapped on to ‘exclusionary conceptions of who is normatively human: what counts as a livable life and a grieveable death’ (2004, xiv- xv). This essay shows how Iraqi texts are themselves exploring how one mourns a life that has been deemed unworthy of grief, and therefore ironically stripped of its precarity in Butler’s terms. It argues that contemporary Iraqi art and fiction has found poignant ways to assert the humanity of Iraqis in the face of the dehumanizing discourses that Butler and others identify.
- Department of English