Brian at Subtopia recently put up a great post on blast walls in Iraq. Where they are manufactured, by whom, what they are used for etc.
Basically these blast walls are the main identifying feature of urban life throughout the whole country, but especially within Bagdhad.
I am particularly interested in the following two ideas. First that the physicality of the “occupation” can be measured in mileage and tonnage, as represented by the blast walls found all over the country.
And that much of this construction/erection takes place overnight, when the country is sleeping. They then wake up to find the city’s organizational structures changed and altered…
But think about how much money has been spent on blast walls alone. And suppose the occupation ends one day, how long will those walls really remain in place, what forlorn legacy is being cemented in the streets of Baghdad today for generations to come? If they were removed at some point, I wonder what would happen to all that concrete? Would it get formally recycled, or broken down into lucrative scrapper markets underground? In such a market, I wonder how much concrete it would take to sustain the life of an average refugee family in Iraq for a month. Who would even own the blast walls if the occupation were to suddenly cease? Would the Americans leave but then come back to reclaim their heaping piles of blast walls one day? Or, could we imagine in a bizarre post-colonial kind of way some newly adaptive reuse project for all these oppressive slabs, say, Bremer Wall refugee rehousing projects? Or is that just too symbolically grim to even consider? How about future bridges and infrastructure made out of old blast walls? Think of all the Iraqi reconstruction projects that aren’t getting the attention they deserve compared to the constant fabrication of these barriers.
I don’t know, I guess it just begs a later question: are these barriers useful for any thing else in their current form? Like, for example, if we were to gather them all up, what would they — what could they — possibly amount to?
Forgive this utterly superfluous train of thought, I suppose I’m just trying to revision them somehow, since they have already become such an urban staple in certain parts of the world. Could they in the end be used for some post-war reconstructive means?
Full post (here)