Erasure, Non-Existence, and the Production of Economic Legibility in Iraq

Published in Middle States Geographer

In this paper, I analyze the production of the image of a singular economic geography for Iraq. I explore the discursive projects of erasure that both preceded and coexists with the U.S.-led military intervention of 2003. My hope is to trouble both the presumed stability of the narrative that posits the authority of a singular economic legibility over a heterogeneous field of economic and social activity. First, I highlight the process of making the national economy of Iraq legible in a particular way that privileges oil’s role at the global scale.Turning on the temporal hinge of the invasion itself, the second part of the paper looks at the process of legally organizing and classifying economic actors in the spaces of warfare. By turning attention towards landscapes often described as central to geopolitical statecraft and structures of power, I show that instability and “non-existence” are integral to the structures of this economic vision. As a conclusion, the final part of the paper looks at the ways in which security measures and foreign reconstruction efforts are attempting to project the image of a neoliberal economic singularity into the future, further entrenching this economic vision as an irrevocable truth beyond which there is no alternative. At its most broad, this paper is a “reading for absences” in the landscape of warfare. As such, I look for ways in which monocultural discourse is mobilized to both conceal its own instabilities and the existence of credible alternative economic spaces. .