Trained in medicine and anthropology, Omar Dewachi works at the intersections of global health, history of medicine and political anthropology. His scholarship focuses on the human and environmental manifestations of decades of conflict and military interventions in Iraq and the broader Middle East. His first book, Ungovernable Life chronicles the rise and fall of state medicine in Iraq and the role of medical doctors in infrastructure making (and unmaking) in the country, dating back from the British Mandate (1920-1932). Arguing against narrow understanding of statecraft, Dewachi shows the centrality of health, disease and the body to state-making history, as well as to the lived experiences of war, violence, and Empire.
Dewachi’s current research project is a multi-sited ethnography exploring what he calls the “ecologies of wounds and wounding,” where he attempts to link the biophysical wounds of war to a broader understanding of wounding in contemporary conflicts. He focuses on the biomedical, environmental, and social experiences of war injury, displacement, and the rise of Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR) across different conflict-settings and therapeutic geographies in the Middle East. Building on long-term fieldwork and professional engagement with local and international medical organizations (such as Doctors Without Borders), and with individuals and families wounded in ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Syria, he has been documenting the transformations in the landscapes and infrastructures of care resulting from the changing ecologies of war: the collapse of state healthcare systems, the destruction of the lived environment, the intensifications of mobility of patients and refugees across state borders, the proliferation of violence, and the manifestations of war’s toxic legacies. This work has culminated in the inauguration of the Conflict Medicine Program at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. The program is dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of the physical, psychological and social manifestations of war wounds.