About this blog...

I am a former leader of a Human Terrain Team in Iraq. My intent with this blog was to identify relevant, open-source materials on Iraqi culture, society, politics, religion and economics - just about anything on or about the Iraqi population in general.

I am continuing the blog now only sporadically, as a means of information distribution in support of efforts to improve a vital program hamstrung by failures in execution.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The "Other" Culture

When we talk about the HTTs being here to provide advice on local culture, we're talking about culture as the fabric that binds individual people into a society: religion, politics, power structures, language, organizations, economics, history -- everything. The other type of culture, though -- what you can call the arts, or high culture -- is one small part of that bigger, more important culture. Understanding this other type of culture is not necessarily something that offers immediate utility, but it's another chance to gain an insight on Iraqis - or at least some Iraqis.

You can see from the tags below that this stuff falls squarely into the "shallow news" tag; Some of these stories (the folklore story, the orchestra story) probably don't really reflect life for the majority of Iraqis. But these are all layers of what's going on here that a lot of us can forget about pretty easily...

An Iraqi singer performs Iraqi and Iraq-inspired pieces in Beirut, because "violence and oppression is killing their cultural identity" and "the meaning of tradition... has been lost in Iraq."

Nonetheless, the Iraqi National Folklore Ensemble and Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra continue to practice in hopes of soon performing again. But practicing or not, the singer's point might be driven home by the fact that the Folklore group has to practice in a secret location, and the Orchestra can't seem to keep their best musicians from fleeing the country.

Average Iraqis, though, still turn to the TV. Power may be limited in a lot of places, but the first thing anyone does when it comes on is hit that "on" switch. News is rarely the first choice, though -- favorites are Egyptian soap operas, the latest political satire, or good old escapist cartoons, movies and music videos.

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