This is the second episode of the "Environment in Context" podcast. In it, co-editors of Jadaliyya's Environment Page, Huma Gupta and Gabi Kirk, discussed with Kali Rubaii how ecologies of war have produced multiple waves of displacement and have intimately shaped the lives of displaced Iraqis through the materiality of cement.
News agencies and international organizations often talk about displacement in abstract, statistical terms. For instance, in Iraq, there are currently more than one and a half-million internally displaced people. However, today we will discuss how ecologies of war have produced multiple waves of displacement and have intimately shaped the lives of displaced Iraqis through the materiality of cement. In the early twentieth century, British occupying forces and the subsequent mandatory government popularized the use of Portland cement. The developmental projects of the Monarchic, Republican and Ba'athist regimes further promoted the production and use of cement, which is an integral component of concrete in infrastructure projects, like dams, prisons, and mass housing. More recently, after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, the Coalition Provisional Authority built thousands of t-walls and blast-proof wall segments in the name of security. Though, in cities like Baghdad, they often functioned as sectarian borders. Thus, the global concrete industry represented by corporations like the LaFarge Group and local cement factories play an important role in the securitization of space. But these are the more familiar stories of the lives and after-lives of modern building materials in major cities across Iraq. We are speaking today with Dr. Kali Rubaii, who will take us to the “cement valley” in Bazian, which is 30 kilometers away from Sulaymaniyah in Kurdistan in order to defamiliarize us from the ways in which we think about cement.
References and Resources
1. Kali Rubaii's Academia.edu profile and list of publications
2. Concrete and Livability in Occupied Palestine
3. The Islah Reparations Project
4. Envisioning the Postwar: Kali Rubaii Speaking at NYU
Dr. Kali Rubaii
Dr. Rubaii is an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at Purdue University. She has a joint appointment as a Chancellor's postdoctoral fellow at University of California, Davis. Before that, she was an Andrew Mellon postdoctoral research fellow at Rice University. She earned her PhD in Cultural Anthropology at University of California, Santa Cruz and her BA in International Relations at University of California, Davis. Dr. Rubaii is also the co-founder of the Islah Reparations Project.
Gabi Kirk is a PhD Candidate in Geography with a Designated Emphasis in Feminist Theory and Research at the University of California, Davis. Working between political ecology, feminist geography, and geographies of colonialism, her dissertation project examines how Palestinian farmers and sustainable development organizations in the northern West Bank use agro-ecology in projects of identity formation and struggles for sovereignty.
Huma Gupta is a scholar of environmental planning and the political economy of development. She is currently a Humanities Research Fellow at New York University - Abu Dhabi. Her book project “The Architecture of Dispossession: Migrant Sarifa Settlements and State-Building in Iraq” examines state-building through the architectural production of rural migrants in cities. She did her doctoral training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she was a fellow in the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture and the Social Science Research Council.
For more from Status/الوضع, visit www.statushour.com and subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts!