Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
Muzaffar al-Nawab is one of Iraq’s most beloved revolutionary poets. In the mid-twentieth century al-Nawab lived in the southern marshes of Iraq where he conducted educational outreach for a faction of the communist party. Al-Nawab’s poems feature meditations on nature, particularly on Iraq’s wetlands expanse and riverine ecology, its genealogical connection to civilizations past, and the relationship of this swampy environs to political movements in Iraq. Al-Nawab is sometimes called a “guerrilla” poet: his poems critique the corruption of authoritarian regimes and were banned in almost every Arab country. His work insists on the connection between nature and revolution. In 2016 UNESCO declared Iraq’s marshes a World Heritage Site. Once drained by Saddam Hussein, Iraqi exiles in partnership with the US government subsequently re-flooded and conserved the marshes during the occupation. Twenty-first century environmental reformers insist on the apolitical nature of their work. Al-Nawab helps us see otherwise.