Five College Consortium

Five College Middle Eastern Studies Program

Twice Marginalized: Fighting for Women and Against the Occupation in Israel

Thu, Mar 2 2017 - 4:30pm to 5:30pm
Neilson Browsing Room

Tamar (Tami) Zandberg is a sitting member of Knesset (Parliament) in Israel. She was a main activist in the 2011 mass social protest movements, and is part of a new generation of women leaders determined to promote legislation that supports the rights of marginalized groups in Israeli society. Tami's party, Meretz, identifies itself as a leading voice of the Left in domestic politics, with a longstanding commitment to the promotion of human and civil rights for all residents of Israel and a firm separation between religion and state. At Smith she will talk about what it means to be part of a political opposition.

Smith College
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The Rhett Butler Doctrine: Israel and America in the Trump Age

Tue, Feb 28 2017 - 6:00pm to 7:30pm
Paino Lecture Hall, Beneski

A talk by Aluf Benn, Editor-in-Chief of Haaretz 
with Steven Simon, John J. McCly Visiting Professor of History

Aluf Benn has been the editor-in-chief of Haaretz since 2011. A veteran writer and editor, he has covered peace, war and politics and has fought government secrecy and censorship for thirty years. Benn won a landmark Supreme Court case that expanded press freedom in 1989. 

Amherst College
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Political Thirst: The Control of Water in North Africa - A Roundtable Discussion

Tue, Feb 21 2017 - 5:00pm to 6:30pm
Seelye 201

Professor Alan Mikhail from Yale University with Smith faculty: Greg White, Mukaram Hhana, and Alex Seggerman will offer short faculty presentations, along with interdisciplinary discussion and will address issues surrounding the control of water in North Africa from historical, environmental, political, and artistic perspectives. The conversation will highlight how controlling, exploiting, and sustaining water has been central to political power in the region for centuries.  

Smith College
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Spring 2017 Job Talks: UMass Search for Modern Middle East Historian

Please join the UMass History Department for a series of job talks for a position in Modern Middle East History. The new hire will become a part of our larger Middle East community, so we hope you will attend any talks you can, and especially fill out the response forms that will be provided at the events.

Monday, January 23: Kathryn A. Schwartz, “Print and the People of Cairo”

Thursday, January 26: Nilay Özök-Gündoǧan. “A Gordian Knot on the Ottoman Periphery: Kurdish Nobility, the Ottoman State, and Armenian Sharecroppers, 1840s-1870s”

Thursday, February 2: Nadav Samin, “Genealogy, Wahhabism, and State Formation in Saudi Arabia”

Monday, February 6: Michael Christopher Low, “Drinking the Sea: The Technopolitics of Pilgrimage, Potable Water, and Petroleum in Arabia”

Thursday, February 9: Joshua T. Georgy, Before the ‘National Minority’: Coptic Christians and a World of Relationships”

All presentations will be held in 601 Herter Hall, UMass, from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Kathryn A. Schwartz

“Print and the People of Cairo”

Against the scholarly depiction of print as an agent of change in the modern Middle East, examining printing through the lens of the people who interacted with it shows that its history represents a story of continuity. Focusing on nineteenth-century Cairo, the first Ottoman city to develop a sustained urban print culture, this talk considers the work and impact of various actors ranging from the state to booksellers, speculators, traders, religious scholars, and authorial entrepreneurs. Such figures used printing to advance their longstanding practical and financial goals during the period between the French invasion (1798-1801) and the British occupation (1882) of Egypt. Yet they also helped to develop and inspire the idea of print as an agent of change in popular thought and scholarly writing thereafter. My emphasis on peoples’ use of printing as a practical and narrative tool charts the overlooked history of why Cairene printing took off, and how it developed. Instead of an agent of change, I argue that printing may be appreciated more accurately as a forum for agency and a conduit for peoples’ goals.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Nilay Özök-Gündoǧan

“A Gordian Knot on the Ottoman Periphery: Kurdish Nobility, the Ottoman State, and Armenian Sharecroppers, 1840s-1870s”

This paper examines the transformation of the Ottoman state’s relationship with its predominantly Kurdish and Armenian eastern periphery in the mid-nineteenth century within the context of Ottoman state modernization. Using land policies and conflicts as a prism through which to view the unfolding of modern statecraft, my paper demonstrates late Ottoman efforts to incorporate this region, which had hitherto remained on the margins of the empire's politico-administrative organization. Starting from the 1840s, Kurdish land accrued a plethora of new meanings in Ottoman statecraft: as a productive unit to maximize agricultural surplus; as a wilderness to be tamed; as the domain of nomadic tribes; and, finally, as a piece of territory to be integrated into the centralizing state. These novel meanings of the land triggered a long process of conflict among different actors, including central and local state officials, Kurdish nobility, and the sharecroppers. The paper focuses on Kurdish-Armenian inhabitants’ perceptions and reactions to the changing land tenure, the ever-increasing encroachment of both state and local notables, and the dramatic changes this brought to provincial life.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Nadav Samin

“Genealogy, Wahhabism, and State Formation in Saudi Arabia”

In this talk I will draw from my past and current book projects to discuss how precolonial categories of central Arabian social thought have been transformed in the era of modern state formation, and how these changes help us to understand some of the distinctive qualities of modern Saudi history.  My talk will be based on a range of unexamined sources collected in Saudi Arabia between 2009 and 2016, to include private correspondence, Saudi government maps and archival documents, family trees, oral narratives, and others.  Taken together, these sources provide a picture into a deeply opaque yet highly influential modern Arab society, and suggest some new ways of mapping the history of the modern Middle East and broader Islamic world.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Michael Christopher Low

“Drinking the Sea: The Technopolitics of Pilgrimage, Potable Water, and Petroleum in Arabia”

The provisioning of potable water was a microcosm of the late Ottoman state’s incomplete projects of technopolitical modernization on the Arab frontier.  Water questions sat at the intersection between international pressures surrounding cholera, drought, Wahhabi and Bedouin disorder, and the inability of the state to impose its will on the semi-autonomous Amirate of Mecca.  To be sure, Ottoman public health reforms and increased attention to water infrastructure were partly a product of the intense international attention generated by the hajj’s role in the globalization of cholera.  However, like other projects with more overt military and strategic implications, most notably the Hijaz telegraph and railway, the Ottoman state also saw an opportunity to harness the environmental management of the hajj to serve a broader set of efforts to consolidate the empire’s most vulnerable frontier provinces.

This talk also seeks to tell a larger story about the evolution of state building, development, and expertise in Arabia, one that would otherwise be obscured without reference to its Ottoman, Saudi, American, and global connections.  By viewing the evolution of hydraulic management in the Hijaz as a continuous process unfolding across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, we gain a new perspective on the role that Ottoman modernization played in shaping the Saudi state that eventually succeeded it.  We find that the quest for water security and environmental dominance in the Hijaz played a critical role in setting the stage for the discovery of Saudi Arabia’s massive petroleum reserves.  In turn, I argue that the production of oil and water have become completely interdependent.  After the kingdom’s embrace of large-scale desalination technologies in the 1970s, oil has become the necessary ingredient in the peninsula’s water production.  Thus, through the magic of turning oil into “infinite” water the Saudi state has arguably cast its most awe-inspiring and terrifying spell over its subjects.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Joshua T. Georgy

“Before the ‘National Minority’: Coptic Christians and a World of Relationships” 

Coptic Christianity, according to prevailing wisdom, is an ancient Christian tradition that is indigenous to Egypt. The Coptic Church is sometimes even called the "Egyptian Church," while the bulk of its followers are identified collectively as a "minority community" within apredominantly Muslim national space. Such assessments presuppose a host of institutional, territorial and communal objects that belong to the conceptual universe of modern nation-states. Here, we consider strategies for breaking free from these limiting frames, and contemplate a "world of relationships" that existed long before boundaries were conjured isolating Copts from Muslims, "Egypt" from "Ethiopia" and the "Middle East" from "Africa.”