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MSCA-Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA)

Iraqi Cinema Beyond the Screen

Awarded: NOK 2.3 mill.


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Project Period:

2022 - 2024


In the beginning of the 20th century, Iraqi cities and urban environments changed and new public spheres and forms of work and leisure emerged. New neighborhoods, and institutions, cafés, and theaters changed the structure of urban life. In the process, modern leisure and entertainment began moving from the private realm into the public and increasingly came to be organized on a commercial scale. One index of these changes was cinema, which arrived in Iraq in the early 20th century and quickly became a highly popular form of entertainment. A modern and global rather than a specifically Iraqi development, the emergence of cinema in Iraq can be seen as a local inflexion of a global phenomenon. Situated at the crossroads of Egyptian, Indian, European, and American film production, cinema in Iraqi sheds light on the transnational qualities of early cinema in Iraq itself but also in the many areas across the globe where national cinema only emerged belatedly. Yet, the development of the specific culture of cinema, so significant in the history of Iraq as well as in the field of cinema studies and nonwestern cinema, has received scarce attention. My project undertakes this fresh subject, interrogating the transnational circulation of cultural products and material objects, including films and technology, and exploring how they came together at a particular historical moment with capital, performers, and people with technical skills to establish cinema as a form of leisure in Iraq. Studying the emergence of cinema in Iraq through an approach that attends to cinema’s material and transnational histories and contexts can enhance our understanding not just of Iraq and its many entangled networks, connections and histories, but also of early cinema outside of the global centers of gravity. Finally, TECI shows how the intersection of capital, public space, and popular entertainment lays open both the possibilities, tensions, and conflicts that developed in 20th century Iraq.

Funding scheme:

MSCA-Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA)

Funding Sources