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Abstract

The story of Iraq’s and Baghdad’s modern history and modernity can be, and has been, told in a number of different ways. “Between Work and School: Leisure and Modernity in Hashemite Baghdad, 1921-1958” examines modern Iraqi history through the lens of urban practices and institutions of leisure in Baghdad. I show that leisure both defined and expressed key aspects of Iraqi modernity and suggest that we can begin to map some of the uncharted aspects of modern Iraqi history and modernity through the new institutions, practices, discourses, and distractions of leisure that took up increasing space and time in the life Iraqi of Iraqi subjects. My dissertation argues that leisure time in twentieth century Iraq became one of the many frontiers upon which the individual and citizen came into contact with, confronted, challenged, and interacted with new ideas about gender, sexuality, time, and productivity. In other words, I show that it is possible to think of leisure as one of the domains in which different and competing ideals and visions of nation and temporality manifest themselves and in which social norms and gendered identities are both enforced, practiced, contested, and transgressed upon. At the same time, my dissertation highlights the multifunctional properties of leisure spaces and pays close attention not only to the porous boundaries between leisure and labor, but also to the forms of labor and exploitation that often remain hidden in studies and understandings of leisure. As such, in addition to investigating educational and extracurricular activities as structured leisure, labor is another form of structured time examined in this dissertation. Last but not least, this dissertation argues that several of the forms and institutions of leisure that emerged during the Hashemite period were, to varying degrees, both global, transnational, and local. This dissertation examines leisure, and attempts to control it, in a number of different forms. The first two chapters examine how Iraqi students were disciplined in leisure. More specifically, Chapters 1 and 2 explore the emergence of extracurricular activities in missionary schools as an attempt to control and fill the leisure time of students. Chapters 3-5 interrogate the increasingly public and commercial spaces of leisure, such as cafés, cinemas, and nightclubs, that were less within the bounds of official and state control. By paying attention to these institutions, practices, and discourses, along with their transregional and transnational connections, my dissertation aims toward a portrayal of modern Iraqi history that includes the multitude of everyday practices and experiences left out by traditional political histories.

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