Targeting the Symbolic Dimension of Baathist Iraq: Cultural Destruction, Historical Memory, and National Identity

In: Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication
Benjamin Isakhan Deakin University, Australia

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This article examines the systematic efforts to dismantle or destroy the symbolic dimension of the Baathist regime in Iraq since 2003. It argues that while the Baath were undeniably cruel and oppressive, they did undertake one of the twentieth century’s most robust attempts to utilize the political power of historical memory to create a unified Iraqi national identity. However, while many have examined the militaristic or bureaucratic dimensions of de-Baathification, no such attempts have been made to examine the destruction of the symbols and monuments of the Baathist state and the consequences this has had for Iraqi national identity. This article addresses this paucity and concludes that with the symbolic destruction of the Baathist state has come a near complete erosion of the Iraqi brand of nationalism that the Baath had managed to promulgate to varying degrees of success since the late 1960s.

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