University of Pittsburgh

Negotiating In Civil Conflict

Haider Ala Hamoudi

Associate Dean for Research Haider Ala Hamoudi gave a talk at Pitt Law to discuss his latest book exploring the intricacies and compromises of Iraq's new constitution. Read more here.

Associate Dean for Research Haider Ala Hamoudi Publishes Negotiating in Civil Conflict: Constitutional Construction and Imperfect Bargaining In Iraq with University of Chicago Press

As the title of Pitt Associate Professor of Law Haider Ala Hamoudi’s latest book imparts, the process of building a constitution in a new democracy is a messy, imperfect process, particularly when the society that the constitution is supposed to govern is bitterly divided. Despite the constant negativity of media cycles covering Iraq’s development over the last ten years, Hamoudi’s new book Negotiating In Civil Conflict: Constitutional Construction and Imperfect Bargaining in Iraq, strikes a sanguine tone on the Iraq Constitution’s ability to foster compromise in a nation racked with sectarian violence.

Hamoudi spent most of 2009 in Baghdad as a key adviser to the Constitutional Review Committee of the Iraqi legislature, responsible for developing critical amendments to the Iraq Constitution deemed necessary for national reconciliation. The book is based on extensive research as well as his first hand experiences of the negotiation process for amendments and compromises in constitution building.

Further context is extracted from the fact that Hamoudi’s family comes from Iraq, where he returned regularly for years, most notably for a two year period from 2003 to 2004 to teach in the aftermath of the U.S.-Iraq invasion. Those experiences are recounted in his earlier highly praised book, Howling in Mesopotamia: An Iraqi-American Memoir.

This spring, Hamoudi gave a talk at Pitt Law about his latest book where he opened his presentation by stating that a Paris Hilton cookbook was ahead of him in the Amazon sales ranks. This elicited a laugh from the full room and underscored Hamoudi’s personable humility, but the joke also hinted at a fatigue and disengagement of the general population from the topic of Iraq when it should be timelier than ever. In the years since the U.S.-Iraq war, Arab Spring has swept countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Syria which has given way to winter turmoil, battling factions, and comparative examples for Iraq’s democratic development. At this point in history, Iraq’s governing framework is enduring its greatest test yet.

According to Hamoudi, the open-endedness of Iraq’s constitution has allowed the three key factions of Iraq, - the Shi’a, Sunnis and Kurds, - to develop a vested fealty to the document’s survivability. During the book discussion some pointed out how this open-endedness is slightly similar to what allowed the American constitution to survive its tumultuous early years in an era of moral ambiguity over slavery and state compromise.

Iraq now grapples with the complexities of assembling multi-ethnic Islamic identity, secular positive law and democracy into a stable system. While  many difficult governmental power questions remain unanswered, the book argues that the Iraqi constitution has laid a foundational legal structure for a functioning government and has bought the new nation critical time to answer deeply divisive questions.

Negotiating in Civil Conflict: Constitutional Construction and Imperfect Bargaining in Iraq is available through University of Chicago Press.

Professor Hamoudi also regularly contributes to his own blog, Islamic Law In Our Times. He received his J.D. from Columbia Law School, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar. He served as a legal advisor to the Finance Committee of the Iraq Governing Council, as well as a Program Manager for a project managed by the International Human Rights Law Institute of DePaul University School of Law to improve legal education in Iraq. In addition to his Iraqi Constitutional Review Committee work in 2009, Hamoudi also advised on other key pieces of Iraqi legislation, including a hydrocarbons law, a revenue management law, and an antitrust law.  He currently serves as Associate Dean of Research and Faculty Development at Pitt Law and Chair of the American Association of Law Schools Islamic Law Section.  In February, Hamoudi was selected to serve as 2014 Kraemer Scholar-In-Residence at William and Mary Law.

Revised 09/28/2011 | Copyright 2011 | Site by UMC