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Carleton’s Mid-East Lecture Series Focuses on Defining Iraq

April 21, 2008
By Marina Komarovsky '08

Magnus Bernhardsson, associate professor of Middle Eastern history at Williams College, will present a lecture entitled “What is Iraq? Defining the Iraqi Nation 1921-2008” on Thursday, April 24 at 7:30 p.m. in Leighton Hall, room 304. In light of U.S. involvement in Iraq and the Middle East, it is essential to develop a thorough understanding of the various forces shaping the culture and politics of this region. Employing a historical perspective on Iraq, Bernhardsson’s presentation is part of Carleton’s Mid-East Connections speaker series. The event is free and open to the public.

Bernhardsson will address “how Iraqis themselves have experienced the twentieth century and what critical features we need to keep in mind.” He explains that Iraq has very strong sentiments of national identity, originating in its early civilization. However, “we talk about the Middle East or Arabs or Muslims as one group … but each nation has had its specific historical and political experience,” he points out.

After receiving a BA at the University of Iceland, Bernhardsson went on to pursue a MAR at Yale University Divinity School and remained at Yale to complete a PhD in history. He later became an instructor of modern Islamic and Middle Eastern history at Hofstra University in New York. Currently, he teaches courses on historical and modern-day Middle East at Williams College and focuses his research on the importance of archaeology in engendering nationalism in the region, particularly in Iraq. Bernhardsson has authored several books, including Reclaiming a Plundered Past: Archaeology and Nation Building in Modern Iraq (University of Texas Press, 2005) and the Icelandic title Píslarvottar nútímans. Samspil trúar og stjórnmála í Íran og Írak (Martyrs of Modernity. Religion and Politics in Iraq and Iran, Mál og Menning, 2005). He is the co-editor of US-Middle Eastern Encounters: A Critical Survey (University of Florida Press, 2007) and Imagining the End: Visions of Apocalypse from the ancient Middle East to Contemporary America (London: IB Tauris, 2001). In these books the application of the lenses of international relations, historical identity, and religion serve to broaden our perspective on present-day Middle East.

The Mid-East Connections speaker series, sponsored by the Office of the Dean of the College, brings to campus leading academics working broadly in the area of Middle Eastern history, society, religion, arts and literature. The objective of the series is to increase community understanding and appreciation of a critically important region of the world while providing a venue for broader community discussion. Next month, Carleton associate professor of religion Shahzad Bashir will address religion in a second Mid-East Connections talk entitled "Between God’s Image and Satan’s Workshop: The Human Body in Islamic Thought and Practice."

For more information, including disability accommodations, contact Peggy Pfister at (507) 222-4303.