Middle East Section
Invited - Oral Presentation Session
Recent upheavals and armed conflicts have highlighted the tenuous tensions between medicine and the state in the Middle East. Healthcare militarization, the targeting of doctors and their implication in conflicts, the mass exodus of medical professionals, and the emergence of a therapeutic economy of war and injury, are further blurring the lines between the medical and the political. Drawing on my own personal experiences of working as a doctor during the 1990s in Iraq, and analysis of medicine and state-making in Iraq (Dewachi 2017), I explore this question as it pertains to the emerging biopolitics of “ungovernability” cultivated by the Iraqi state to manage the everyday material breakdown in the aftermath of the Gulf War and sanctions (1990–2003). I focus on how doctors, who are charged with the task of preserving life, negotiated the perverse state biopolitics and the changing calculus of life and death under sanctions. I suggest that one way to understand the breakdown of the state’s architecture of power and the continual shifts and fluctuations of the biopolitical apparatuses in place such as Iraq is to see the doctors themselves as an infrastructure shaped by a contested histories of colonial and post-colonial state making projects. This begins to explain why the loss of so many Iraqi doctors during the period of the 1990s had such a huge impact not only on the material workings of the medical systems themselves, but also the place medicine would come to hold in Iraq as well.