Dissections: New Directions in Research on the Middle East and North Africa
Attempts to understand the variant paths of modernity in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and the relationship of the region to Europe and the United States, have produced a new body of scholarship focusing on the history of sexuality, gender, human rights, and related subjects. Intersecting with studies on religion and secularism, this seminar aims to provide an opportunity to share empirical research and theoretical framings in order to push forward scholarly debate on the MENA region.
“The Arabic Freud: The Unconscious and the Modern Subject”
Speaker: Omnia El Shakry (History, UC Davis)
Bio: Omnia El Shakry is an Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Davis, where she teaches Modern Middle East and World History. She is the author of The Great Social Laboratory: Subjects of Knowledge in Colonial and Postcolonial Egypt (Stanford University Press, 2007), and numerous articles on the history of Egyptian social science, gender politics, urbanism, and visual culture. Her current book project, tentatively titled, “Theorizing the Soul: Self and Psyche in Twentieth Century Egypt,” traces the development of discourses of self, psyche, and subjectivity in Egypt as part of the transnational history of ideas and comparative social history.
Title of Paper: “The Arabic Freud: The Unconscious and the Modern Subject”
Paper Description: This paper concerns itself with how Freud travelled in postwar Egypt. Rather than focus solely on the linguistic matters involved in the translation of Freudian or psychoanalytic terminology, I invoke Freud as a touchstone or metonym for broader Arabic debates surrounding the status of consciousness and the unconscious in psychic life. Freud is thus simply a place one returns to or moves beyond. I offer, then, not a literal history of Freud in Egypt, but rather, a history of ideas and debates spawned by Freudianism as a multivalent tradition. As such, rather than ask the perennial question of whether and to what extent psychoanalysis or Freud’s analytical understanding of the unconscious was delimited by a national or colonial world-view, I explore the points of condensation, divergence, and the epistemological resonances which psychoanalytic writings had in postwar Egypt. In stark contrast to Fethi Benslama’s “tale of mutual ignorance” (between Islam and psychoanalysis), I trace a tale of densely interconnected webs of knowledge production surrounding consciousness and the status of the unconscious in postwar Egypt, tracing historical interactions and hybridizations, between and within multiple traditions of psychological inquiry.
Robert Tignor is the Rosengarten Professor of Modern and Contemporary History, teaches courses in African history and world history and has done research on British colonialism and its aftermath, world history, and the modern histories of Egypt, Nigeria, and Kenya. His publications include Modernization and British Colonial Rule in Egypt (1966), State, Private Enterprise, and Economic Change in Egypt (1984), Capitalism and Nationalism at the End of Empire: State and Business in Decolonizing Egypt, Nigeria, and Kenya (1998), and Worlds Together, Worlds Apart: A History of the Modern World (2002).
Patricia Clough is professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies at the Graduate Center and Queens College of the City University of New York. She is author of Autoaffection: Unconscious Thought in the Age of Teletechnology (2000); Feminist Thought: Desire, Power and Academic Discourse (1994) and The End(s) of Ethnography: From Realism to Social Criticism (1998).
Cengiz Kırlı: Tyranny Illustrated: From Petition to Rebellion in Ottoman Vranje
Speaker: Cengiz Kırlı is an Associate Professor of History in the Ataturk Institute for Modern Turkish History, Boğaziçi University,Istanbul. Kırlı is the author of numerous articles on social and cultural history in nineteenth-century Ottoman Empire, with an emphasis on political transformation. His publications include "Surveillance and Constituting the Public in the Ottoman Empire," in Publics, Politics and Participation: Locating the Public Sphere in the Middle East and North Africa. (SSRC, 2009) and "Balkan Nationalisms and the Ottoman Empire: Views from Istanbul Streets," in Ottoman Rule and the Balkans, 1760-1850: Conflict, Transformation, Adaptation (Rethymno, 2007). His book Sultan ve Kamuoyu (The Sultan and Public Opinion) investigates news reports from the early years of Tanzminat to reveal how the regular people of Istanbul experienced and reflected upon political and social transformation. Sultan ve Kamuoyu: Osmanlı Modernleşme Sürecinde Havadis Jurnalleri, 1840-1844 (İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, 2009)
Paper Title: Tyranny Illustrated: From Petition to Rebellion in Ottoman Vranje
Paper Description: Following the footsteps of a petition, this essay examines the struggle of the people of Vranje in the Ottoman Balkans to unseat their governor Huseyin Pasha, a grandee of Albanian origin, in the early 1840s. It aims to put this struggle within the context of the politically volatile atmosphere across the Ottoman Empire after the Tanzimat edict promulgated in 1839, one of the primary aims of which was to reorganize the provincial administration and to reshuffle the power structure in the provinces through financial and legal means. It also provides an exemplary case to illustrate the dynamics and stages of mobilization and dissent in an attempt to demonstrate how the resistance in Vranje took shape invoking different strategies within the established power structure of the periphery and the new political discourse of the center.
Discussant: Leslie Peirce is is professor of History at New York University. Her research interests include early modern history of the Ottoman Empire, gender, law, and society. She is the author of The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire (Oxford University Press, 1993) and Morality Tales: Law and Gender in the Ottoman Court of Aintab (University of California Press, 2003). She is recently working on a book (tentatively entitled The Ottoman World) focusing on various aspects of the social, spiritual, material, and sexual history of the early modern Ottoman empire in a world/comparative historical context.
The Bank, the Photographer, and the Employee: 6,000 Illustrated Files of Imperial Ottoman Bank Employees, 1890-1930
Join Edhem Eldem (History, Boğaziçi University,Istanbul)as he examines some 6,000 files of Ottoman Bank employees between 1890 and 1930. He will address the handling of the individual photographs included in these files. Practically every file comes with a full-body, standing photograph of the employee, generally taken in a studio. This paper will deal with the multilayered context in which the photographs were 'composed': body, pose, space, studio, individual, photographer, bank, etc.
Edhem Eldem is Professor of History at Boğaziçi University, Istanbul, where he teaches Ottoman social and economic and intellectual history. He is the author of Un Ottoman en Orient. Osman Hamdi Bey en Irak (1869-1871) (Paris, Actes Sud, 2010), Consuming the Orient, (Ottoman Bank Archive and Research Centre, 2007), A 135-Year-Old Treasure. Glimpses from the Past in the Ottoman Bank Archives, (Osmanlı Bankası, 1998), French Trade in Istanbul in the Eighteenth Century, (E. J. Brill, 1999) and numerous articles on intellectual biographies, history of archaeology and visual cultural.
Sara Pursley (GC, CUNY)
"The Stage of Adolescence: Anticolonial Time, Youth Insurgency, and the Marriage Crisis in Hashimite Iraq"
From the foundation of Iraq under British Mandate rule in 1921 to the revolution of July 14, 1958 that toppled the British-backed Hashimite monarchy, Iraqi nationalist policymakers and intellectuals elaborated projects to insert Iraqi youth into certain temporal regimes of progress that would work on their everyday habits and routines. Their aim was to historically enact the nationalist dream of sovereignty without leading to uncontrollable sociopolitical disorder, and one of their means was to reconfigure Islamic ethical disciplines of self-formation into techniques for the production of sexual difference and heteronormativity. While many of the pedagogical theories these policymakers drew on were elaborated by intellectuals in Europe and the United States, the article challenges analytical models of dependency (first the West, then the rest), including those that trace changing conceptions of “youth” in the 20th-century Middle East to “Enlightenment” notions of progress. I consider such changes instead as effects first of local and global struggles over colonialism and decolonization and then of the dawning of the Cold War “age of development” after 1945, arguing that “youth” was not a politically thinkable category, anywhere in the world, in ways that could fully escape the terms of the dying European colonial system or the emerging Cold War order. This framework for the study of youth opens onto transnational historical questions in the global era of decolonization, including how certain aspects of the ambivalent 20th-century figure of the adolescent as a subject of political insurgency seem to have emerged in the Arab world in the 1920s and 1930s, decades before the 1950s debut of the celebrated American Cold War rebel epitomized by James Dean in Rebel without a Cause.
Discussant: Discussant will be Samira Haj, Professor of History at the Graduate Center, CUNY.
Bio: Sara Pursley is associate editor of the IJMES and received her PhD in Middle East history in 2012 from the CUNY Graduate Center. She is currently revising the article presented here for publication in a forthcoming special issue of History of the Present. She is also the author of “Daughters of the Right Path: Family Law, Homosocial Publics, and the Ethics of Intimacy in the Works of Shi`i Revivalist Bint al-Huda,” Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies 8 (Spring 2012) and “Building the Nation through the Production of Difference: The Gendering of Education in Iraq, 1928-58,” in Writing the History of Iraq: Historiographical and Political Challenges, ed. Riccardo Bocco, Hamit Bozarslan, Peter Sluglett, and Jordi Tejel (London: Imperial College Press, 2012). She is the winner of the 2012 Carolyn G. Heilbrun Dissertation Prize for outstanding feminist dissertation in the humanities from the Center for the Study of Women and Society, CUNY Graduate Center.
Required Reading: All seminar participants are asked to read the paper in advance of the meeting. The presenter will summarize the paper and contextualize it, after which a discussant will offer comments to help initiate a full discussion. For reading and registration please contact: email@example.com
This paper examines the literary project of the renowned Tunisian intellectual Maḥmūd al-Masʿadī (1911-2004). He was a trade unionist, educator, Minister of Cultural Affairs, Speaker of Parliament, as well as the architect of Tunisia’s educational policy following independence in 1956. In addition to a series of critical essays, al-Masʿadī wrote a number of short stories, novels and plays between 1938 and 1941. Due to the densely philosophical nature of his fiction and the absence of a transparent nationalist agenda, his work confounded Arab literary critics of the time who were preoccupied with the ideologies of literary commitment [Iltizam] and Socialist Realism [al-Wāqiʿīya al-Ishtirākīya]. Crowned the founder of “Muslim Existentialism” by the Nahda intellectual Ṭaha Ḥusayn, al-Masʿadī’s fictional and critical writings reflect a deep engagement with early Arab and Islamic thought, as well as existentialist philosophy and literature. This paper reads al-Masʿadī’s critical works in dialogue with his novella Mawlid al-Nisyān [The Genesis of Forgetfulness], positing that the story enacts a Sufi poetics situated at the crossroads of existential and aesthetic concerns.
Discussant: Alexander Elinson, Associate Professor of Arabic Language and Literature at Hunter College and Director of the Hunter College Summer Arabic Program
Hoda El Shakry is an Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at The Pennsylvania State University. She is currently serving as an Assistant Professor, Faculty Fellow at The Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University. Her research and teaching interests lie in twentieth century literature, criticism and visual culture of the Middle East and North Africa. Her current book project examines Islamic discourses in relation to Arabophone and Francophone literature of the Maghreb. She is the author of “Revolutionary Eschatology: Islam & the End of Time in al-Ṭāhir Waṭṭār’s al-Zilzāl” in Journal of Arabic Literature (42.2-3: 120-147) and “Apocalyptic Pasts, Orwellian Futures: Elle Flanders’ Zero Degrees of Separation,” in GLQ (16.4: 611-621).
MEETING LEADER:: Cyrus Schayegh
Connecting the Dots: The Regional History of the Mandate Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Palestine & Transjordan, 1918-1948)
Most historians of the Mandate Levant have reflexively chosen its new polities - Syria, Palestine, etc - as frameworks of analysis. However, this approach has empirical and analytical limits. I seek to transcend these by arguing that because the Levant was rather strongly integrated by the 1910s, its subsequent division somewhat counter-intuitively also begot further integration. Thus, because new, now diverging ‘national economies’ had different profiles and needs, the latter were met not the least by regional movements of goods and people. Similarly, cross-border movements encouraged French and British authorities to coordinate legal and bureaucratic mechanisms. In my paper, which is a first draft of my book’s Introduction, I historiographically situate my project and substantiate its argument by outlining its six chapters: Ottoman background, social and mental geographies, Franco-British coordination, socio-commercial networks, labor migration, and geo-economic competition. Professor Rashid Khalidi (Columbia University) will sereve as discussant.
Cyrus Schayegh (PhD, Columbia University, 2004) was at the American University of Beirut from 2005-2008 and now is an assistant professor at Princeton University, where he teaches modern Middle Eastern history. His first book, Who Is Knowledgeable Is Strong. Science, Class, and the Formation of Modern Iranian Society, 1900-1950 (California University Press) appeared in 2009; he has published articles in IJMES, CSSH, and AHR, amongst other journals. His current principal book project, which bears the working title “Connecting the dots: a regional history of the Mandate Levant (Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Transjordan, 1918-1948),” re-examines the post-Ottoman Levant as a region formed by the interplay between division and integration, between new countries and cross-border movements of goods and people.
MEETING LEADER:: Jennifer Johnson Onyedum
Humanitarianism and Decolonization: The International Committee of the Red Cross in Algeria, 1955-1962
When the Algerian war began, international law, human rights, and the Geneva Conventions remained largely untested in a colonial context. Anti-colonial movements in Kenya and Malaya were underway but they had not successfully challenged the boundaries of these doctrines. The ten International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) missions in Algeria between 1955 and 1962 provide a revealing case study of the ways by which postwar notions of human rights legally excluded international intervention in these internal affairs and absolved the French, the Algerians, and the ICRC of their actions. This paper argues that the Algerian war exposed the inadequacies of international law at the apogee of decolonization. The French and the Algerian nationalists tried to manipulate legal deficiencies and ICRC inconsistencies to their own political ends. The ICRC identified internal struggles as a new category of war; yet, it remained constrained by its own mission and the contradictions of colonialism and was unable to adapt its doctrines during the conflict to better meet the needs of those affected. Professor Clifford Rosenberg (City College) will serve as discussant.
Jennifer Onyedum earned her Ph.D. in History from Princeton University in 2010. Her dissertation examined the politics of medicine and international intervention during the Algerian struggle for national liberation, 1954-1962. Professor Onyedum specializes in contemporary African history, with a particular interest in North Africa, decolonization, and humanitarianism.
She has received several fellowships including an Andrew W. Mellon fellowship in Humanistic Studies. She also has received awards from the Social Science Research Council, the American Institute for Maghrib Studies, and the National History Center. Professor Onyedum teaches courses on pre-colonial to present-day African history,the History of medicine and Humanitarianism and Conflict in Africa.
MEETING LEADER:: Zeynep Çelik
Defining Empire’s Patrimony: Late Ottoman Perceptions of Antiquities
Zeynep Çelik is distinguished professor of architecture at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Professor Çelik has been the recipient of numerous fellowships, including John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2004) and American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship (1992, 2004, and 2011).
Professor Celik’s paper, “Defining Empire’s Patrimony: Late Ottoman Perceptions of Antiquities” marks the completion of a project and the beginning of another. The first is a co-edited book with Zainab Bahrani and Edhem Eldem, titled Scramble for the Past: A Story of Archaeology in the Ottoman Empire, 1753-1814; the second concerns her new research, which expands further on some of the themes opened up in the Scramble and deals with commonly ignored aspects of archaeology (such as the labor landscape).
Professor Zainab Bahrani (Columbia University) will serve as discussant.
Zeynep Çelik is distinguished professor of architecture at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Her publications include The Remaking of Istanbul: Portrait of an Ottoman City in the Nineteenth Century (1986—winner of the Institute of Turkish Studies Book Award, 1987), Displaying the Orient: Architecture of Islam at Nineteenth Century World’s Fairs (1992), Streets: Critical Perspectives on Public Space (1993—co-editor), Urban Forms and Colonial Confrontations: Algiers under French Rule (1997), Empire, Architecture, and the City: French-Ottoman Encounters, 1830-1914 (2008—winner of the Society of Architectural Historians Spiro Kostof Book Award, 2010), and Walls of Algiers: Narratives of the City through Text and Image (2009—co-editor), as well as articles on cross-cultural topics. She served as the editor of the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (2000-2003). More recently, she curated an exhibition, “Walls of Algiers” at the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (May-October 2009). A co-edited volume, Scramble for the Past: A Story of Archaeology in Ottoman Empire, 1753-1914, is forthcoming (fall 2011). She is currently preparing two exhibitions for SALT in Istanbul and working on a new book project, titled Empires and Antiquities: Appropriating the Past. Professor Çelik has been the recipient of numerous fellowships, including John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2004) and American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship (1992, 2004, and 2011).
MEETING LEADER:: Lila Abu-Lughod
Authorizing Moral Crusades: Universal Rights and Literary Trafficking
What lies behind the new American common-sense that we should go to war for global women’s rights? This paper explores how two industries that we rarely think of together are authorizing the current moral crusade to save Muslim women: the international human rights regime and mass-market publishing, which has brought us a sordid genre of pulp non-fiction about Muslim women’s bondage and oppression. Drawing on her experiences in rural Egypt and urging us to think carefully about our own lives, Professor Lila Abu-Lughod offers an alternative way to think about the key terms of this crusade; choice versus force, freedom versus bondage.
Professor Mandana Limbert (Queens College and the Graduate Center, CUNY) will serve as discussant.
Lila Abu-Lughod, Joseph L. Buttenwieser Professor of Social Science, teaches anthropology and gender studies at Columbia University where she also directs the Center for the Study of Social Difference and the Middle East Institute. Her scholarship, strongly ethnographic, focuses on three broad issues: the relationship between cultural forms and power; the politics of knowledge and representation of the Muslim world; and the dynamics of gender and the question of human and women’s rights in the Middle East. Her award-winning books include Veiled Sentiments: Honor and Poetry in a Bedouin Society; Writing Women’s Worlds: Bedouin Stories; Remaking Women: Feminism and Modernity in the Middle East; Dramas of Nationhood:The Politics of Television in Egypt, and Nakba: Palestine, 1948, and the Claims of Memory. A leading voice in the debates about gender, Islam, and global feminist politics, her books and articles have been translated into 13 languages. Her research has been supported by many foundations including Carnegie, Guggenheim,SSRC and the American Council of Learned Societies. She has just completed a book, “Do Muslim Women Need Saving?” to be published by Harvard University Press.
MEETING LEADER:: Joseph Massad
Joseph Massad: The Democracy Offensive and the Defenses of Islam
British and US imperial policies included, in the case of the British since the nineteenth century and of the Americans since World War II, the production of certain forms of Islam that could be put in the service of colonial and imperial policies. This involved intermittently the imperial production of “liberal” forms of Islam, “Jihadist” forms of Islam, and then again a new “liberal-democratic” Islam, wherein the very relationship of “Islam” to “democracy” from the view of American and British imperialisms was being determined by these very policies. Concomitant with these policies, British and American liberal political doctrine would deploy explanations of both, the emergence of liberal “democracy” in the so-called “West,” and the persistence of despotism in the non-West, with particular attention to and focus on “Islam.” Much of this, Joseph Massad argues, is a projection of Western imperial commitments to despotism at home and abroad onto “Islam,” not only to showcase Western cultural and political superiority ushered in by the age of secularism through a suspect claim to democratic governance, but also and more importantly to secure imperial aims in what came to be known and religiously defined as the “Muslim world.”
With discussant Talal Asad, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the Graduate Center, CUNY
Joseph Massad teaches modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University. He is the author of Colonial Effects: The Making of National Identity in Jordan (Columbia University Press 2001), The Persistence of the Palestinian Question: Essays on Zionism and Palestinian Nationalism(Routledge, 2006), Desiring Arabs (University of Chicago Press, 2007). His book Desiring Arabs received the Lionel Trilling Book Award in 2008. The seminar paper he will be presenting titled "The Democratic Offensive and the Defenses of Islam" is a chapter from his forthcoming book Islam in Liberalism.
MEETING LEADER:: Malek Abisaab
Maronite Clerical Leadership and French Colonial Policies in Grand Liban, 1935: The Strenuous Partnership
Malek Abisaab’s article sheds light on the development in the relationship between the Lebanese Maronite church and the French colonial authorities during the mid-1930s. It focuses on the confrontational stance of the church toward the French under the leadership of Patriarch Antoine `Arida (1863-1955). Abisaab delineates `Arida’s resistance to the imposition of the tobacco monopoly, the Régie, and his diplomatic and political maneuvers, culminating with the 1935 popular uprising against the French, which cut across Muslim and Christian lines. Through the analysis of French archival documents and reports, he argues that the deterioration in Maronite-French relations was primarily caused by the colonial mapping of Grand Liban and its disruptive consequences for Mount Lebanon’s leadership and economy. With the French imposition of the tobacco monopoly the conflict took the form of a nationalist resistance against the French. It sparked a critique of French colonial logic and encouraged the need to draw alliances with Syrian and Lebanese Muslim leaders. Ultimately, the Maronite community and the Church pursued a delicate balance between their local interests, their commitments to the French, and “partnership” with the Muslims.
Malek Abisaab is associate professor of history at McGill University, Montreal, Canada, where he teaches courses dealing with the social and political transformation of the Middle East and women in Islamic societies, exploring new conceptual tools and comparative frameworks for discussing gender, labor and the nation-state in the Middle East. He authored, Militant Women of a Fragile Nation (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2010); “Shi`ite Peasants and a New Nation in Colonial Lebanon: the intifada (uprising) of Bint Jubayl, 1936,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East (November, 2009); “Orientalism and Historiography of Arab Women and Work,” Journal of Women of the Middle East and the Islamic World (HWWA) (Fall, 2009); “Contesting Space: Gendered Discourse and Labor among Lebanese Women,” in Ghazi Falah and Caroline Nagel eds., Geographies of Muslim Women (New York: Guilford Publications, 2005), 249-274; and “’Unruly’” Workingwomen: Contesting French Colonialism and the National State in Lebanon, 1940-1946,” Journal of Women’s History, vol. 16, no. 3(2004): 55-82 and co-authoring with Rula Jurdi Abisaab, The Shi`ites of Lebanon: Modernism, Communism, and Hizbullah’s Islamists (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, Forthcoming).