This essay examines the trope of the decapitated, severed head as it appears in a range of works produced by three emigrant Iraqi artists: Afifa Aleiby, Baldin Ahmad and Ahmed Alsoudani. Drawing on a range of cultural, political and philosophical readings of the severed head by figures such as Adriana Cavarero, Julia Kristeva and Francois Debrix, the essay seeks to map the diverse affects, meanings and contexts the severed head takes on in Aleiby, Baldin and Alsoudani’s paintings and sculptures from Saddam’s dictatorship to the present. What kind of affects – horror, disgust, pleasure, ecstasy – does the spectacle of the severed head generate? How does the figure of the head detached from the body become a metonymy or synechdoche for the political state of exile, displacement or alienation? Finally, what function does the representation of the severed head play in the production and articulation of loss, trauma and mourning.
Hamdar, A. (in press). Severed Heads in Iraqi Diasporic Visual Production: Aleiby, Baldin and Alsoudani. Textual Practice, https://doi.org/10.1080/0950236x.2022.2115545