Charting the Territory: Space and Power in the Iraq War


  • Stefka Hristova Michigan Technological University


walling, mapping, Iraq, war, security


I analyze the 2007 mapping and walling of Baghdad’s neighborhoods into ‘gated communities’ and ‘ghettos’ as a way of distinguishing and segregating Sunni and Shia ‘friends and ‘foes’. This walling was part of the Iraq War (2003-2010) in which a US-led military coalition invaded the state and framed its occupation as a project aimed to reconstruct Iraq into a modern democratic state. I situate this walling project within Foucault’s notion of gridding space, and argue that it exemplifies the materialization of the cell technique, and Carl Schmitt’s articulation of three modes of empty space in relation to territory. I argue that the walling process was an attempt to produce what I call a “continuous security”, predicated upon the assumption of a population´s characterized belonging to the circumnavigated territory. On the outskirts of the walls, however, the security measures remained to be discontinuous – risk here was high as the space was inhabited by a heterogeneous milieu. The outskirts, on the other hand, can be articulated as spaces of discontinuous security where “place-based” global sovereignty and uneven networks of places have come to characterize population. The imposition of the disciplinary mechanism of walling was met with resistance and had a disastrous impact on the life of Baghdad’s residents, as shown by Haifa Zagnana (2010) and soon was abandoned both by the US military and by the Iraqi government of that time.




Author Biography

Stefka Hristova, Michigan Technological University

Stefka Hristova is an Assistant Professor of Digital Media at Michigan Technological University. She holds a Ph.D. in Visual Studies with emphasis on Critical Theory from the University of California, Irvine. Her research analyzes the digital visual cultures of war and displacement.  Hristova’s work has been published in journals such as Visual Anthropology, Radical History Review, TripleC, Surveillance and Security, and Interstitial


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Figure 1. Diagram of the Wall that would transform the neighborhood of Adhamiya into a “gated community” in April 2007. Image posted by Zeyad Kasim on his blog Healing Iraq. <>

Figure 2. In Baghdad, Americans are putting up walls to secure neighborhoods. Credit Ali Haider/European Pressphoto Agency/Shutter Stock.




How to Cite

Hristova, S. (2018). Charting the Territory: Space and Power in the Iraq War. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 17(4), 939–957. Retrieved from