03-07-2018: Iraqibacter: Ecologies of War and Anthropology of Wounding

Middle East and Middle Eastern American Center


Iraqibacter: Ecologies of War and Anthropology of Wounding

Wednesday, March 7th, 2018, 06:30 PM – 08:30 PM

Room C205, 365 5th Avenue, New York, NY

Iraq’s healthcare has been on the edge of collapse since the 1990s. Once the leading hub of scientific and medical training in the Middle East, Iraq’s healthcare infrastructure has been undermined by decades of U.S.-led wars, sanctions, and invasions. This has been further accentuated by the dearth of empirical knowledge about Iraq in the social sciences, which has often rendered Iraq as ungovernable in swath of scholarship. Omar Dewachi examines the rise of Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR) infections among militant and civilians injured in Iraq (and across the region) since the 2003 US-led occupation, focusing on the mystery of Iraqibacter, a moniker given to Acinetobacter baumannii—a superbug, defiant of most antibiotics and commonly associated with the Iraq War veterans in the United States. He shows how unravelling ethnographic and microbiological knowledge about Iraqibacter reveal deeper entanglements of this killer superbug in the political, biosocial, and environmental manifestations of long-term war in the country and its present-day fallout across the region.

Omar Dewachi is Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Social Medicine and Global Health at the American University of Beirut (AUB). Trained as a physician in Iraq during the 1990s, he received his doctorate in social anthropology from Harvard University in 2008. He is the author of Ungovernable Life: Mandatory Medicine and Statecraft in Iraq (Stanford University Press, 2017), which is the first historical and ethnographic study documenting the rise and fall of state medicine in Iraq, as well as numerous publications that have appeared in a number of medical, anthropological, and global health journals, including the Lancet.