Identity, Sovereignty, and Global Politics in the Building of Baghdad

September 18–20, 2014

This conference is open to the public but registration is required. Please contact Phillip Baker to register (

[  Conference Program  ]

Using the history of urban development in Baghdad as a starting point, this conference will identify the extent to which interventions intended to modernize and integrate the different populations of the city were part of a larger process of negotiating competing visions of political economy, sovereignty, and national identity in post-World War II Iraq. By gathering political scientists, architectural and urban historians, and scholars of the Middle East, the conference seeks to raise larger theoretical and empirical questions about the ruptures and continuities in state formation and regime consolidation. The built environment of Baghdad is used as a canvas for understanding struggles over Iraq’s position in a global context shaped by ongoing war tensions (from the Cold War to the Gulf War and beyond) and Middle East conflicts.

The aim of the conference is to historicize the urban development in Iraq and understand its larger political implications by focusing on the interaction between local, regional, and international actors. By showing Baghdad as the center of alternative networks of global cooperation, which included the economic globalization spearheaded by US institutions, socialist internationalism, and the Non-Aligned Movement, this workshop provides a basis for rethinking the domestic and global political significance of Baghdad’s urban development processes. To draw out generalizations, the conference will compare and contrast the Baghdad case with select cities in Latin America and elsewhere in the Middle East.


Diane E. Davis

Faculty Associate. Professor of Urbanism and Development, Harvard Graduate School of Design.


Łukasz Stanek

Lecturer, School of Environment, Education and Development, University of Manchester, United Kingdom.

Phillip Baker

Harvard Graduate School of Design.


Center for International Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Urban Theory Lab, Harvard Graduate School of Design; Risk and Resilience Track, Master of Design Studies Program, Harvard Graduate School of Design; Aga Khan Program in Islamic Architecture, Harvard University.

See also: Conferences, 2014