social sciences | The American University of Iraq Sulaimani

social sciences

Social Sciences department hosts KRG official at AUIS

  On Monday, April 8, 2019, the Department of Social Sciences at AUIS hosted a workshop for International Studies students with Zana Kurda, Director of EU Affairs at the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Mission to the EU in Brussels, Belgium.   Mr. Kurda, in addition to his duties with the KRG mission, is a PhD researcher at the Institute for European Studies and in Sulaimani to conduct field research for his dissertation on KRG relations with the EU.   Students were given the opportunity to speak with Mr. Kurda about his academic and work experience, including details on how the KRG conducts its mission in Brussels and relations with EU governments.  

AUIS and Ifpo Host Conference on Living Heritage in the Middle East

The French Institute in the Near East (Ifpo) in collaboration with the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) Department of Social Sciences organized their first conference in the Kurdistan region of Iraq on ‘Conflict and Living Heritage’ with the support of the French Embassy in Baghdad and the Institute français in Paris. The Conference was held at AUIS over the course of two days. The organizing committee included Dr. Geraldine Chaterland of Ifpo-Amman, Dr. Boris James, head of Ifpo-Erbil, Dr. Elizabeth Campbell, assistant professor at AUIS, and Dr. Hassan Nadhem, the UNESCO Chair for the Development of Interreligious Dialogue Studies in the Islamic World at the University of Kufa. View photo gallery of the conference by clicking on image below. The Conference brought together scholars, researchers, and doctoral candidates in the fields of social anthropology and history, intellectual and interreligious studies, archeology and philosophy, art history and architecture, and ethnomusicology from across the Middle East and Western world. Conference participants were asked to consider the interrelatedness of cultural heritage and identity with armed conflict and forced displacement. Popular art, traditions, religious beliefs and rituals, language and oral expression together with architecture are all forms of heritage that suffer in these on-going wars. Speakers answered broad questions about how living heritage, both tangible and intangible, and collective identities are affected by war and under new political authorities. More particularly, they examined and conceptualized the practices and discourses of local actors to highlight the nexus between cultural heritage, identity, armed conflicts, and population displacement in the Middle East, specifically in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan. The main aim of the conference was to shed light on the importance of living heritage. Defined as that which gives a population a sense of collective identity, living heritage in the Middle East, especially in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, has been targeted as a result of the wars currently waged in these countries. Moreover, while most international organizations, governments, and heritage professionals have concentrated their efforts and attention on the damage and destruction of archeological sites and artifacts, this conference aimed at focusing attention on the aspects of living heritage which are being neglected. Panel discussions touched on heritage as a practice of resistance in times of crisis and conflict; on the destruction of heritage as a matrix for identity construction; on the initiatives being taken to safeguard intangible heritage; the roles heritage, identity and memory play in exile; on how built heritage can become contested space; and lastly, on perspectives on the conservation of tangible heritage. View or download the conference program  View event page   Listen to selected talks by participants on our podcast playlist below. 

AUIS to Use Drone Technology for Archaeological Mapping in Kurdistan

April 20, 2016 - Sulaimani, KRG-Iraq - Earlier today, the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) demonstrated the first official flight of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), aka drone, over the AUIS campus for students, staff and faculty members. The flight was demonstrated by Dr. Tobin Hartnell, assistant professor and director of the Center for Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (CACHE), and Mohammed Anwer, an IT student who will be piloting the drone for the Social Sciences department’s projects. This marks another successful milestone for AUIS in its endeavors towards using modern technology for research and academic activities. Late last year, Azzam Alwash, senior board member at AUIS and founder of Nature Iraq, donated a DJI Phantom 3 Professional, an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), to the Center for Archaeology and Cultural Heritage at AUIS. This remote controlled multicopter (a miniature helicopter with 4 rotor blades) is coordinated from the ground using an iPhone or iPad and a controller. The helicopter can shoot high-definition photography and very-high definition video (4K) of any place from the air and has a maximum flight time of roughly 15 minutes. Dr. Hartnell has been trialing potential uses of this technology to create 3D models of the landscape at Betsansur, the oldest known village in Iraq, with the permission of Dr. Roger Matthews, head of Archaeology department at the University of Reading who is working at the archaeological site. Commenting on the trials, Dr. Matthews said, "Thank you for the amazing images and video so far. They give a totally new perspective on the site and its surroundings. We look forward to seeing more." “In the future, we will use the technology to create models of landscapes and historic buildings; with some modifications, it can see in other light spectrums such as infra-red and potentially see buried remains up close,” says Dr. Hartnell. “We want to thank the Governor of Sulaimani Province, Aso Fereydun, and the Director of the Sulaimani Airport, Tahir A. Qadir, for creating a way for us to fly the drone safely. Thank you to everyone at AUIS who helped make this possible,” he added. About the Center for Archaeology and Cultural Heritage: The AUIS Center for Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (CACHE) advances a scientific understanding of the past through remote sensing, geophysics, and traditional archaeological investigations. The Center also promotes training, discussion and dissemination of knowledge about archaeology and cultural heritage in Iraq and the Kurdistan region as a safeguard against indiscriminate destruction by groups such as ISIS. CACHE was launched in 2015 as part of the Institute of Regional and International Studies (IRIS).  The Center has a strong track-record of bringing together scholars, policy makers, and cultural professionals from all over Iraq, Kurdistan Region, Europe and the United States. The center hosts regional and international experts at AUIS for workshops on art history, archaeology, and cultural issues related to Iraq and Kurdistan region. CACHE hosts an annual cultural heritage symposium where local, regional, and international experts gather to discuss challenges and solutions to preserving and promoting the region's cultural heritage. Starting in the summer of 2015, CACHE also began archaeological investigations at ancient sites near Sulaimani, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Photos taken by Wud Salaam, student volunteer at the AUIS communications office.

Battle of Empires Champion Edition

    A special edition of Battle of Empires will attempt to decide which civilization achieved the best social, political, economic and strategic outcomes in history. Teams will use words, instead of swords, to decide. Each team will present their empire in the best light and their opponent in the worst light. An expert panel made up of Dr. Frederick Monsma and Dr. Tobin Hartnell from the Department of Social Sciences and Thomas Shaughnessy from the English Department will vote the winner in each round until there is only one team standing. Who will triumph? Will it be the Persians, the Romans or a yet unknown challenger?   If you think you can put together a team of six first year students to defeat the class champions, then join the battle by emailing before 5:00 PM today! You will need the attached form to prepare for the challenge.   

First Archaeological Project at AUIS

  The team from AUIS, together with Mr. Barzan Shwenawar, Director of Antiquities at Raparin, worked at the site for four days from July 25 to July 29. Assistant Professor Dr. Tobin Hartnell from the Social Sciences Department led the team which included Dr. Sarbast Rasheed from the Engineering Department, Mustafa Ahmed, the program coordinator for Archaeology at AUIS, and Shatoo Diyar Bakir, a first year International Studies student. Dr. Jessica Giraud of Institut francais du Proche-Orient (ifpo) dated Peshdar 36 to the Sasanian period based on pottery parallels. As no pottery or other artifacts were collected during the AUIS topographic mapping project, the report will concern other potential datable features at the site, particularly stone masonry. The technique of working limestone blocks at the site resembles Paikuli (late 3rd Century AD), but there are two complicating factors. Firstly, the style of carving horizontal stone blocks resembles the Sasanian tower at Paikuli and places the structures after the monumental walls at Rabana and Zewe, where blocks are individually carved in a variety of shapes to fit each other like a puzzle. Given the style of flat relief at Rabana and Zewe, those monumental structures are probably Parthian. Secondly, at least in the pecked masonry walls, there is no use of plaster (sarouj), which is common at other Sasanian sites like Tepe Barzan. This sarouj is most common in Iran and Iraq after Shapur’s defeat of the three Roman Emperors (c. AD 260). This suggests that at least some of the walls may come after Zewe and Rabana and before Shapur’s architectural innovations that derived from his conquests, such that a late Parthian/early Sasanian date may be plausible for some structures. There is a possibility that the sizes of baked bricks used in monumental constructions at the site will have chronological significance after excavations. For now, no complete bricks were found on the surface. In total, the project recorded 877 points as the basis for creating a base map. The map will need some time to complete because it needs to be formatted using Quantum GIS (QGIS) and the point conversions will take time. The team would like to thank Mala Awat, Director of KRG Department of Antiquities, Barzan Shwenawar, Director of the Raparin Department of Antiquities, and Kamal Rashid, Director of the Slemani Department of Antiquities for their assistance.  For more information about this project, and about Archaeology at AUIS, contact Dr. Hartnell at

A Presentation on Queen Puabi and the Royal Tombs of Ur

On May 28, 2015, the Head of Art History at University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Holly Pittman, was invited to AUIS to give a talk on Queen Puabi, one of the most famous queens of Sumer, the oldest civilization of Mesopotamia, and the treasures of the Royal Tombs of Ur. The site was excavated first in the 1920s and has provided one of the greatest collection of artefacts from ancient Sumer. Dr. Pittman has recently been working on a travelling exhibit of the Royal Tombs of Ur in the United States. Queen Puabi’s graves at Ur showcase the immense wealth of the earliest cities of Iraq and also raises questions about the status of women and the role of the afterlife in the ancient Mesopotamia. Puabi's grave is exceptional in that a large number of courtiers, both men and women, were sent to their deaths along with her when she died. It is the most famous case of mass suicide in ancient Mesopotamia. Listen to Dr. Pittman’s lecture in the podcast below.  Dr. Pittman was visiting AUIS as part of a group of American archaeologists currently travelling through the Kurdistan region. She was accompanied by Elizabeth Carter, Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology at UCLA, who has spent many years working in Iran and Iraq and has written an important textbook on Iranian archaeology. The presentation began with Dr. Carter providing a brief introduction to Sumer and Ur. Dr. Pittman then talked in detail about the Royal Tombs of Ur and specifically about the artefacts discovered from Queen Puabi’s graves. The presentation ended with a short talk by Breton Langendorfer, a Ph.D. student of Near Eastern Art History specializing in ancient Assyria. He talked briefly about his dissertation on Assyrian reliefs and how they tell the story of destruction of cities in ancient Assyria. The lecture was arranged by Tobin Hartnell, archaeologist and assistant professor of Social Sciences at AUIS. Check out our Facebook page for photos from the presentation.

AUIS Hosts First Annual Iraq Cultural Heritage Symposium

The Department of Social Sciences and the Institute of Regional and International Studies (IRIS) at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS), organized the first annual Iraq Cultural Heritage Symposium on April 26, 2015. The symposium, “Iraqi Cultural Heritage in Crisis: Strategies for the Future”, brought together prominent scholars, policy makers, government officials, cultural professionals, and journalists from the Kurdistan Region, Iraq, and beyond to discuss the complex and pressing issues relating to cultural heritage in the region. The Symposium addressed vital issues pertaining to preservation and management of Iraq’s cultural heritage in three different panels. The discussions were moderated by Tobin Hartnell, an archaeologist and professor of social sciences at AUIS. Panel 1: From Mesopotamia to Iraq: Valuing the Past for Iraq’s Future The speakers in the first panel spoke about the importance and value of cultural heritage and why it is important to safeguard and preserve it. They included: Gyorgy Busztin, Deputy-Secretary of UN Assistance Mission Iraq (UNAMI) - Building a Positive Future through Cultural Heritage Mala Awat, Director of the Erbil Directorate of Antiquities - Cultural Heritage in the KRG Hashem Hama Abdullah, Director of the Sulaimani Museum - Restoring the Museum and Future Projects Iqbal Kadhim Aajeel, Director of the Nasriyah Museum - Provincial Museums and Cultural Heritage: A Closer Look at Nasriyah Museum Marie Labrosse, Lecturer, AUIS - Preserving Archives against a Future of Conflict The discussion was followed by a musical performance by internationally renowned Kurdish musician and daf (frame drum) player, Hajar Zahawy. Panel 2: Destruction and Sale of Iraqi and Kurdish Civilization The second panel focused on the destruction of important heritage sites by the Islamic State (ISIS), as well as the smuggling and looting of antiquities in Iraq and Kurdistan. The speakers included: Axel Plathe, Director of UNESCO, Iraq - UNESCO’s Mission to Protect Cultural Heritage in Iraq Ahmad Kamel Mohammed, Director of Iraqi Museum in Baghdad - The Significance of Reopening the Iraqi Museum Bilal Wahab, Assistant Professor, AUIS - Funding ISIS with the Illicit Trade in Antiquities Muayad Said Damerji, Former Director of Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage - Managing Cultural Heritage during Sanctions Panel 3: The Future of Cultural Heritage Management in Iraq The final discussion focused on the future of the cultural heritage in Iraq. Speakers talked about government policies, training and international support for preserving and managing cultural heritage in the region. Experts presented examples of cultural heritage restoration in the Kurdistan Region using the latest methods and technology. AUIS Professor, Tobin Hartnell, also discussed the opening of an Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Center at AUIS in the future, one dedicated to training and educating local cultural heritage management professionals. The speakers on the third panel at the symposium included: Simone Mühl, Assistant Professor, Ludwig-Maxilimian-Universität - Rescue Excavations and Cultural Heritage Management Jessica Giraud, Research Fellow, Institut Français Proche Orient, Head of French Mission to Sulaimani - The Potential of Remote Sensing in Cultural Heritage Management Tobin Hartnell, Assistant Professor, AUIS - The Future of Archaeology at AUIS Kozad Ahmed, Head of Archaeology at University of Sulaimani - Investigating the History of Ancient Kurdistan Mustafa Ahmed, Research Fellow, Institut Français Proche Orient - Syrian Culture in Crisis The conference was held at a pivotal time, as ISIS is systematically destroying the cultural heritage of northern Iraq. However, the recent openings of the Baghdad and Nasriyah Museums highlight the positive role cultural heritage can play as an alternative to the extremist narrative. As cultural heritage management requires local, regional, national, and international collaboration to be successful; this symposium hopes to provide a regular platform for addressing these issues and build ever-closer collaboration between the most important stakeholders around the region and the world. The event was sponsored by Vinci, an architecture and interior design company in Sulaimani. See more photos of the event on our facebook page.


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