B.A., Baghdad University
B.A., American University of Beirut
M.A. and Ph.D., Columbia University
Zainab Saleh is interested in questions of empire and colonialism, belonging and subjectivity, migration and diaspora, and violence and knowledge production. In her scholarship, she tries to examine how formations of subjectivity, understandings of temporality, and the construction of a sense of home in a diasporic context have been situated in structures of power and in shifting terrains of class, political, gender, and religious sensibilities. This interest in power and imperial entanglements, which marked a departure from the concept of culture in anthropological theories, is a window to critique dominant Orientalist conceptualizations about Iraq and culturalist interpretations of national events, which focused on the persistence of primordial affiliations. Her scholarship and training have been informed by the fields of anthropology, Middle East studies, diaspora studies, postcolonial studies, and gender studies. She began her first book, Return to Ruin: Iraqi Narratives of Exile and Nostalgia (2021), as an inquiry into the transformation of the Iraqi political landscape both in Iraq and the diaspora and the reconfiguration of understandings of selfhood among Iraqis in London in light of US intervention in the country since the first CIA-backed Ba‘th coup of 1963 until their invasion of Iraq in 2003. Her current book project, Uprooted Memories: Citizenship, Denaturalization, and Mass Deportation in Iraq, is a continuation of her interest in imperial entanglements with an emphasis on legacies of British colonialism in Iraq by examining the politics of citizenship, belonging, exclusion, and deportation. In both projects, as well as in several articles and chapters, she explores how a politics of empire has informed notions of subjectivity and citizenship, modernity, and nationhood and has shaped experiences of displacement, as well as how Iraqis have inhabited a colonial past and an imperial present. Both projects are also informed by a commitment to studying relations of power and the networks of political activism and solidarity people devise in order to resist oppressive structures and imagine alternative futures.
2021 Return to Ruin: Iraqi Narratives of Exile and Nostalgia. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Winner of The Evelyn Shakir Non-Fiction Award at the Arab American Book Award
In Progress Uprooted Memories: Citizenship, Denaturalization, and Mass Deportation in Iraq.
In Progress Thinking with Iraq Today: The Dismembered Present. Co-edited with Bridget Guarasci and Haytham Bahoora.
Peer Reviewed Journals
2023 “Uprooted Memories: Iraqi Jewish Narratives of Displacement and Longing in documentary films. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 43(1): 110-121.
2022 “Ethnographic Narratives as Living Archives among the Iraqi Diaspora.” Journal of Contemporary Iraq and the Arab World 16(2): 89-102.
2021 “Precarious Citizens: Iraqi Jews and the Politics of Belonging.” Political and Legal Anthropology Review 44(1): 107-122.
2018 “Toppling” Saddam Hussein in London: Media, Meaning, and the Construction of an Iraqi Diasporic Community. American Anthropologist 120(3): 512-522.
2013 “On Iraqi Nationality: Law, Citizenship, and Exclusion.” Arab Studies Journal 21(1): 48-78.
2015 The Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), Oxford Islamic Studies Online.
2015 Editor of a special issue on Iraq entitled “Disinterring Iraq: Writing Silenced Histories of Nation, Nature, and State.” Arab Studies Journal 23(1): 120-123.
2022 “The Construction of Diasporic Sensibilities among Iraqis in London.” In Ramy Aly and Dalia Abdelhady, editors. The Routledge Handbook of Middle Eastern Diaspora. Routledge Press: 316-327.
2012 Iraq and Its Tahrir Square. In Bassam Haddad, Rosie Bsheer, and Ziad Abu-Rish, editors, The Dawn of the Arab Uprisings: End of an Old Order? Plato Press: 270-273. Originally published on Jadaliyya, February 17, 2011.
2015 “Learning from the Diaspora: Towards an Anthropology of Iraqi Exile.” Arab Studies Journal 23(1): 252-255.
Forthcoming Meaningless Citizenship: Iraqi Refugees and the Welfare State, a book by Sally Wesley Bonet (2022), Mashriq & Mahjar: Journal of Middle East and North African Migration Studies.
2023 Mediated Lives: Waiting and Hope among Iraqi Refugees in Jordan, a book by Mirjam Twigt (2022), Political and Legal Anthropology Review 46(1): 13-15.
2022 The Sultan’s Communists: Moroccan Jews and the Politics of Belonging, a book by Alma Rachel Heckman (2021). Politics, Religion & Ideology 23 (4): 524-526.
2022 “Gender Politics, Debility, and Violence,” a review essay of Women of the Midan: the Untold Stories of Egypt’s Revolutionaries. By Sherine Hafez. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2019; Sacrificial Limbs: Masculinity, Disability, and Political Violence in Turkey. By Salih Can Açiksöz. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2020; Politics of Rightful Killing: Civil Society, Gender, and Sexuality in Weblogistan. By Sima Shakhsari. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2020; and The Right to Main: Debility, Capacity, Disability. By Jasbir Puar. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017. Feminist Studies 48 (2): 557-572.
2020 Gender, Governance and Islam, a book by Deniz Kandiyoti, Nadje Al-Ali, & Kathryn Spellman Poots (2019). International Journal of Middle East Studies 52 (4): 797-799.
2020 Familiar Futures: Time, Selfhood, and Sovereignty, a book by Sara Pursley (2019). Critical Inquiry 47(1): 183-184.
2018 Interpreters of Occupation: Gender and the Politics of Belonging in an Iraqi Refugee Network, a book by Madeline Otis Campbell (2016). Anthropological Quarterly 91(1): 409-414.
2016 Iraqi Women in Denmark: Ritual Performance and Belonging in Everyday Life, a book by Marianne Holm Pedersen (2014). American Anthropologist 118 (3): 686-687.
2014 Broken Pots Broken Dreams: Working in Jingdezhen’s Porcelain Industry, a documentary by Maris Gillette (2009). Visual Anthropology Review 30 (1): 75-77.
Academic Public Engagements
Forthcoming “Iraqis Deserve Better Than Saddam Hussein and the U.S. Invasion,” Passport: The Newsletter of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.
2020 “The Human Cost of U.S. Interventions in Iraq: A History From the 1960s Through the Post 9/11 Wars. Costs of War Project. Brown University.
2019 “Seeing the Iraqi Diaspora through US Empire.” Middle East Section. Anthropology News.