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On American readings of Nuha al-Radi's Baghdad Diaries

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There has been a steady growth of western interest in the writings and wartime accounts of Iraqi women, representing a burgeoning literature, of interest to scholars of Middle East politics and history, as well as gender studies. This article considers the diaries of Nuha al-Radi (NR) and their reception and representation by American readers, both within specialized fields of Middle East studies as well as across the broader American audience. NR, a western-educated Iraqi woman, established herself as a ceramic artist of international acclaim. In 1991, NR began her Baghdad Diaries, originally publishing her wartime account in the British literary journal Granta in 1992, which was subsequently expanded and published in book forms in 1998 and 2003. NR's piercing account of Iraq under war, both physical and economic, highlights the details of everyday survival. Her focus examines the often ignored aspects of war survival, the 'disorientation, uncomprehending sadness, and denial of the victims' suffering'. With the 2003 publication of NR's Baghdad Diaries by Vintage Press, NR's work reached a wider audience in the United States. The discovery of NR's work by American readers is examined here critically, with an examination of the various uses and interpretations of NR's text by academic readers. American interpretations of the Baghdad Diaries are examined in terms of how American readers have used NR's narrative for scholarly inquiries in varied academic questions concerning Iraq: notions of just war and the practice of American warfare in Iraq; oncology and the use of depleted uranium in Iraq, as well as environmental concerns; the role of women in conditions of war; and other inquiries. Finally, this article examines the reception of NR's diaries in the popular press, where treatments of her diaries have been met with reactions ranging from condescending and chauvinism to empathy and intrigue.
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Keywords: Iraqi Art; Iraqi Writers/authors; Literature and War; Nuha al-Radi; Women Writers/authors

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Indiana University

Publication date: August 1, 2010

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  • The International Journal of Contemporary Iraqi Studies is a new peer-reviewed, tri- annual, academic publication devoted to the study of modern Iraq. In recognition of Iraq's increasingly important position on the world stage, the time is right for a new journal dedicated to scholarly engagement with the country.
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