Research Proposal: The impacts of urban infrastructure development on the rural cultural values and practices of the Marsh Arabs in South-East Iraq.

My proposal links current infrastructure projects in tandem with a statistical analysis of patterns in areas such as migration, the role of women, health and religious practices. This is in order to better understand the relationship between urban expansion and rural cultural values and practices.
Research Proposal: The impacts of urban infrastructure development on the rural cultural values and practices of the Marsh Arabs in South-East Iraq.

The impacts of urban infrastructure development on the rural cultural values and practices of the Marsh Arabs in South-East Iraq.

Supervisor: Dr Bahar Baser.


Research in the region of SE Iraq has predominantly focused on biodiversity and habitat conservation. Although there has been an acknowledgement of the role of urban infrastructure development in causing environmental damage, there has been a lack of research on the impacts these developments have on the cultural values and practices of the Marsh Arab people themselves. My research project will contribute to international interest in the region, following on from the UN’s commitment to focus on Sustainable Development Goals in the Eden in Iraq project (to hydrate marshlands as well as create a Mesopotamian designed garden). 

Existing research comes under two categories: either as observational but not academic, or academic but environmentally and scientifically focused. This project builds upon previous observational research and environmental research, taking into account the central role of geography and environment in the culture and practices of the Marsh Arabs. 

Research questions

The broad nature of the overarching research question reflects the interdisciplinary nature of the project. Therefore, preliminary research will take place to specify the question surrounding a specific theme (or several themes), analysing the extent to which (and how) urban infrastructure projects...

  • are increasingly limiting the role and status of Marsh Arab women. 
  • are causing migration patterns away from rural communities towards urban centres.
  • are changing Marsh Arab relationships with wealth and wealth-producing activities. 
  • are causing friction between local/traditional and urban religious practices and views. 

Research Objectives and Methodology

Qualitative methods based on secondary research will be used. This will entail exploring literature laid out in literature reviews, policy reports, articles published in reliable media outlets, collating them thematically and interpreting this data in response the research question and sub questions. 

The objectives are:

(1) To map local, national and international infrastructure development projects that will directly or inadvertently impact the marshlands, environmentally, socially or politically, For example, damn constructions in Iran, expansions in national road networks, and UN funded local healthcare centres.

(2) To evaluate which particular cultural areas (women, migration, wealth, religion) will be affected by these infrastructure projects. From here, decide which specific research question will become the focal point when producing the outputs of this research.

(3) To explore statistical evidence and secondary research to determine how direct a correlation/causation can be drawn between the progress of a project and these impacts, and hypothesise future changes to cultural values and practices. Also, to assess if current statistical patterns and conclusions made in pre-existing literature will change as a result of the completion of the infrastructure project in question.

(4) To develop a broader hypothesis on the relationship between rural culture and urban expansion with applicability to other research projects.


Adriansen, HK. 2004. “What Happened to the Iraqi Marsh Arabs and Their Land?” Danish Institute for International Studies 1-30. 

Al-Mudaffar Fawzi, N, K Goodwin, B Mahdi, and M Stevens. 2016. “Effects of Mesopotamian Marsh (Iraq) Desiccation on the Cultural Knowledge and Livelihood of Marsh Arab Women.” Ecosystem Health and Sustainability 1-16. 

Alshami, AH, MA Ibrahim, HA Hussein, and GH Hameed. 2020. “Possible Scenarios of Iraqi Marshland Restoration for Future Water Resources Management.” IOP Conference Series: Material Science and Engineering 1-10. 

Hason, MH, IS Abbood, and SA Odaa. 2020. “Land Cover Reflectance of Iraqi Marshlands Based on Visible Spectral Multiband of Satellite Imagery.” Results in Engineering 1-14. 

Jawad, LA. 2021. Southern Iraq's Marshes: Their Environment and Conservation. Switzerland: Springer. 

Kubba, S, A Wurth, and H Lackner. 2011. Iraqi Marshlands and the Marsh Arabs: The Ma'dan, Their Culture and the Environment. New York: Garner Publishing. 

Stewart, R. 2006. Occupational Hazards: My Time Governing in Iraq. London: Picador. 

Thesiger, W. 1964. The Marsh Arabs. London: Longmans. 



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