Wisam H. Alshaibi: Resurrecting the Dead: On the Exploitation of Ba’th Party Archives in the Service of War

When access to the contents of an archive is refused to the public and to scholars for security concerns, the collection is labelled as being “dark.” Alshaibi’s research is based on one such archive: the Kanan Makiya Papers at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. Using these documents along with interviews, he conducted research with officials in the United States’ Department of Defense, Department of State, and the CIA, and with material obtained through Freedom of Information Acts requests. His research develops the notion of epistemic warfare, namely regarding the decade-long efforts of the United States to weaponize Iraqi Ba’th Party archives as a tool of war. A second, related project theorizes the “feel” or haptic feedback of the Ba’th Party archives captured by the United States as a form of archival agency that produced a way of understanding Ba’thist Iraq which had little to do with the substantive content of the archives themselves. His research agenda alludes to basic questions about the policing of archives, the analytical and technical dilemmas analysts face when dealing with an abundance of facts and multiple interpretations, and, ultimately, the social nature of archives themselves.

Wisam H. Alshaibi is a PhD candidate in Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles. His research specializations are in comparative-historical sociology, political sociology, political violence and war, archival sciences, and Ba’thist Iraq. He is currently writing a dissertation on the origins of the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, with a focus on the uses of Ba’th Party archives to build a case for war and, subsequently, to justify the actions of the Bush administration.


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