Homo Sacer dot Country
Georgio Agamben’s idea of Homo Sacer, a revival of the classical Roman idea of “sacer” mixes the concepts of “sacred” and “cursed”. The concept revolves around state power and biopolitics, but roughly it maps to how certain life cannot be readily sacrified, but can be destroyed without punishment.
However, Agamben always envisioned this as a state of exception within power relations between the central state. An overarching position of power, with the means to enforce violence became the central feature of Agamben’s work, ending with his frequent cries about potential camps in Europe.
What if one can become homo sacer through amnesia? Authority must be repeatedly demonstrated by those who have it in order to reinforce authority, in the same way memory must demonstrate itself to not be forgotten.
Iraq has not just been forgotten, the memory has become twisted to the point it’s only used to prevent its wholesale sacrifice. Take Rafha camp, a refugee camp constructed by UNHCR in Saudi Arabia after the Gulf War to house Shi’as who fled. UNHCR, in their brillance, basically left the Saudi authorities to have free reign on the desert camp. It was only after the invasion did UNHCR negotiate for an extended mandate to repatriate Iraqis beyond the camp itself. More recently, the Baghdad bureaus for two major newspapers have closed, leaving press coverage in a strange state here. In just my years here, I’ve noticed a dramatic descrease in journalism presence, which has bound the remaining jouralists to relying more and more on NGO workers as experts and fact builders on the ground.
What this all combines to form is this country as Homo Sacer, Iraqis die, but only die to be used in local politics. International regimes do not speak to Iraqis, they work through statist instutions which are known to be corrupt. The real estate corruption boom is part and partial to this, anyone that has visted 1001 nights in Baghdad, a resort on the banks of Athimiya located within one of Saddam’s old palaces, can experience the visible signs of corruption and money laundering. The Hashd al-Shaabi have recently launched their “official” construction company, which has priority on state contracts.