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'Terrible things happen': Peter Bowker's 'Occupation' and the representation of the Iraq War in British television drama

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Peter Bowker and Laurie Borg's three-part television drama Occupation (2009) chronicles the experiences of three British soldiers involved in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. By means of an historically situated textual analysis, this article assesses how far the drama succeeds in presenting a progressive critique of the British military involvement in Iraq. It is argued that although Occupation devotes some narrative space to subaltern perspectives on Britain's military involvement in Iraq, the production – in contrast to some other British television dramas about the Iraq war – tends to privilege pro-war perspectives, elide Iraqi experiences of suffering, and, through the discursive strategy of ‘de-agentification’, obfuscate the extent of Western responsibility for the damage the war inflicted on Iraq and its population. Appearing six years after the beginning of a war whose prosecution provoked widespread public dissent, Occupation's political silences perhaps illustrate the BBC's difficulty in creating contestatory drama in what some have argued to be the conservative moment of post-Hutton public service broadcasting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-223
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of British Cinema and Television
Volume10
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013

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