Ibn Hamdis the Sicilian: Eulogist for a Falling Homeland
Granara, William. Ibn Hamdis the Sicilian: Eulogist for a Falling Homeland. Oneworld Publications, 2021. Publisher's VersionAbstract

‘Abd al-Jabbar ibn Hamdis (1055-1133) survives as the best-known figure from four centuries of Arab-Islamic civilisation on the island of Sicily. There he grew up in a society enriched by a century of cultural development but whose unity was threatened by competing warlords. After the Normans invaded, he followed many other Muslims in emigrating, first to North Africa and then to Seville, where he began his career as a court poet.

Although he achieved fame and success in his time, Ibn Hamdis was forced to bear witness to sectarian strife among the Muslims of both Sicily and Spain, and the gradual success of the Christian reconquest, including the decline of his beloved homeland. Through his verse, William Granara examines his life and times.

Those Infidel Greeks: The Greek War of Independence through Ottoman Archival Documents
Ilıcak, H. Şükrü, ed. Those Infidel Greeks: The Greek War of Independence through Ottoman Archival Documents. Brill, 2021. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The documents edited by H. Şükrü Ilıcak in Those Indel Greeks comprise the English translations of select documents from the Ayniyat Registers on the Greek War of Independence preserved in the Ottoman State Archives. The primary importance of these documents is that they are a clear testimony of the larger imperial context in which the Greek War of Independence evolved and proved successful. The mass of information they contain is immense and allows the reader to follow on an almost day-to-day basis how an empire tried to suppress a national uprising—the rst of its kind in the early nineteenth century.

Contributors: Çağrı Erdoğan, H. Şükrü Ilıcak, Nikola Rakovski, Mehmet Savan, Kahraman Şakul, and Aysel Yıldız.

This is a co-publication with the Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation.

The Thousand and One Nights: Sources and Transformations in Literature, Art, and Science
Granara, William, and Ibrahim Akel, ed. The Thousand and One Nights: Sources and Transformations in Literature, Art, and Science. Brill, 2020. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The Thousand and One Nights does not fall into a scholarly canon or into the category of popular literature. It takes its place within a middle literature that circulated widely in medieval times. The Nights gradually entered world literature through the great novels of the day and through music, cinema and other art forms. Material inspired by the Nights has continued to emerge from many different countries, periods, disciplines and languages, and the scope of the Nights has continued to widen, making the collection a universal work from every point of view. The essays in this volume scrutinize the expanse of sources for this monumental work of Arabic literature and follow the trajectory of the Nights’ texts, the creative, scholarly commentaries, artistic encounters and relations to science.

Contributors: Ibrahim Akel, Rasoul Aliakbari, Daniel Behar, Aboubakr Chraïbi, Anne E. Duggan, William Granara, Rafika Hammoudi, Dominique Jullien, Abdelfattah Kilito, Magdalena Kubarek, Michael James Lundell, Ulrich Marzolph, Adam Mestyan, Eyüp Özveren, Marina Paino, Daniela Potenza, Arafat Abdur Razzaque, Ahmed Saidy, Johannes Thomann and Ilaria Vitali.

Contesting the Iranian Revolution: The Green Uprisings
Alimagham, Pouya. Contesting the Iranian Revolution: The Green Uprisings. Cambridge University Press, 2020. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Most observers of Iran viewed the Green Uprisings of 2009 as a 'failed revolution', with many Iranians and those in neighbouring Arab countries agreeing. In Contesting the Iranian Revolution, however, Pouya Alimagham re-examines this evaluation, deconstructing the conventional win-lose binary interpretations in a way which underscores the subtle but important victories on the ground, and reveals how Iran's modern history imbues those triumphs with consequential meaning. Focusing on the men and women who made this dynamic history, and who exist at the centre of these contentious politics, this 'history from below' brings to the fore the post-Islamist discursive assault on the government's symbols of legitimation. From powerful symbols rooted in Shiʿite Islam, Palestinian liberation, and the Iranian Revolution, Alimagham harnesses the wider history of Iran and the Middle East to highlight how activists contested the Islamic Republic's legitimacy to its very core.


Bordewich, Chloe La Verne. “Leaking Empires: The Struggle over Information in the Eastern Mediterranean, 1870–1952.” History and MES, 2022. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This is a history of information and its control as a political battleground. Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, the explosion of mass media and communications connected people across much of the world and made it possible to transmit more information across longer distances than ever before. But in many places, the same period witnessed the reimagining and retrenchment of official secrecy. This dissertation investigates this apparent paradox from the vantage point of Egypt. With the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, Egypt lay at the center of global networks of trade, transport, and technology. Coveting an empire of its own in East Africa, it was enmeshed in the Ottoman Empire and, after 1882, in the British Empire, too. Between the 1870s and the 1950s, a series of challenges to imperial governance, each tied to war or its specter, brought a pair of contentious questions into focus: What did the public have the right to know? And what was the state entitled to conceal?

When the nineteenth century began, states did not share basic details of how they functioned, such as the scale of debts and revenue, or the size of their armies, with people outside government. By the century’s end, a vocal “public” was demanding to know more. In Egypt, a conception of information about the state as a public good—about a public “right to know”—crystallized in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. This was due to the confluence of three main factors. First, and most important, was a political environment riddled with frictions due to Britain’s semi-colonial rule, which foreclosed Egypt’s own imperial project and independence. The second was the widespread use of telegraphy, a technology on which the state relied heavily but did not fully control. The third was the expansion of the Arabic press, which attracted dissidents from across the Ottoman and Mediterranean worlds to Egypt and gave public demands a prominent platform.

Demand for more information about affairs of state provoked a backlash with long-lasting consequences. At first, authorities were ill-prepared to provide a rationale for secrecy. This changed in the decade before World War I, when high-profile assassinations prompted them to link the circulation of information to political violence. A corresponding shift from policing deeds to policing ideas took tighter hold amid the nationalist revolution of 1919, as colonial officials feared collusion between their Egyptian colleagues and a wider hostile society. When British officials began a gradual retreat following Egypt’s nominal independence in 1922, the compartmentalization of information within organs of state entrenched a renewed culture of concealment. In 1948, the Arab defeat in Palestine drew scrutiny to the secrets and silences this climate had nourished, and popular anger at the absence of information that convincingly explained the loss contributed to the ouster of the Egyptian monarchy in 1952. Yet rather than leading to a new era of trust and transparency, the narrative that emerged in the gap between the propaganda people were fed and what they believed to be true was seized on by the military regime that took its place and helped to sustain it in power.

Kahlenberg, Caroline. “How Locals Became Settlers: Mizrahi Jews and Bodily Capital in Palestine, 1908-1948.” History and MES, 2021. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This dissertation explores early twentieth-century Palestine through the lens of bodies and material culture. While histories of modern Palestine often treat “Jews” and “Arabs” as naturally distinct categories, I examine how these categories were constructed as racialized, embodied, and opposing identities. At a time when Palestine witnessed major changes— including the transition from Ottoman to British rule, mass Zionist settlement, shifting labor patterns, and the rise of Palestinian nationalism—residents made sense of their identities by spreading ideas about whose bodies were like, or unlike, their own. This dissertation focuses on Sephardi and Mizrahi (Eastern) Jews, many of whom lived in Palestine prior to modern Zionist settlement, which offers a unique lens to explore the process of Arab-Jewish boundary-making. At the turn of the twentieth century, Mizrahi Jewish bodies were not always clearly marked as exclusively “Jewish” or “Arab.” Their clothing, accents, and cultural tastes were often indistinguishable from those of their Muslim and Christian neighbors in Palestine. However, the growing colonial-national conflict in the 1920s and 1930s forced Mizrahi Jews to confront their position vis-à-vis Zionism and Palestinian nationalism. They adopted several strategies in light of this new reality. Many abandoned “Arab” clothing and accents in order to assimilate into the Ashkenazi-dominated Jewish community (Yishuv). In doing so, they helped produce a visual and sonic Arab-Jewish division on the ground. Others challenged the emerging divide by refusing to change their bodies. They expressed pride in their cultural and linguistic heritage in the Islamic world. Yet others selectively employed their “Oriental” bodies as a way to assert Zionist belonging and nativeness in Palestine.

This dissertation makes three broader contributions. First, using photographs, oral histories, material culture, and written sources, it illuminates how clothing, sounds, sexuality, and age become racialized in circumstances of colonial-national conflict. Second, while scholars often point to one “year zero” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the founding of a political movement, the outbreak of ethnic violence, or the publication of a specific document, I demonstrate that building a Jewish-Arab division demanded the constant policing of how individuals looked and sounded. Finally, the dissertation’s focus on Mizrahi Jews pushes scholars of settler colonialism to think beyond a local-versus-settler paradigm. Many Mizrahi Jews in Palestine were locals who also became part of a settler movement; they were, as I term them, “local settlers.” The story of this dissertation, then, is the story of how the locals became settlers.

Tschoepe, Aylin Yildirim. “Brave New Turkey: Contesting the Production and Valuation of Bodies, Urban Space, and Ecology.” Archaeology and MES, 2021. Publisher's VersionAbstract

In this ethnography, I examine fragmented urban and social dynamics in Istanbul, Turkey. The issues of the country are mirrored and coalesced into these dynamics. Binaries of proper/valuable versus improper/abjected city and citizens emerge from a “New Turkey” politics. This creates hierarchies of bodies, urban spaces, ecological practices, and types of knowledge. Rooted in historical de/valuation processes, Turkey’s current technologies of power intensify and gain new momentum and scale. Lawfare, identity politics, urban planning, and technocratic ecological strategies are instrumental in implementing interdependent urban and social transformation. Drawing on two years of fieldwork, I analyze the contestation of governmental actors, local authorities, environmental activists, local residents, and garbage workers over the production and valuation of bodies, space, and ecology. From this, I address the broader picture of classist, gendered, ethnic, and racist discrimination as a process that most evidently manifests itself in urban space.

The socio-spatial impact of a “New Turkey” is most starkly felt among the urban poor whose livelihood depends on environmental practices. Here, I focus on a specific group that is invisible for many: non-municipal garbage workers who are targets of intersectional devaluation. Through green(wash)ing strategies, their homes are displaced by “healthy and sustainable” luxury housing projects and infrastructure. They are treated as second-class citizens and, therefore, socially and economically immobilized. At the same time, they contest the authorities over garbage as a commodity, and the law criminalizes their recycling practices. Conflict and resistance occur not only between actors but also within institutions, activist movements, and affected communities. As various players share risks, new—and sometimes unexpected—alliances are formed under the common goals of social and environmental justice and rights to the city. The ambiguity of all of this is reflected in the title: “BRAVE NEW TURKEY.” On the one hand it speaks to the forging of the current hegemonic Turkishness and Turkish urban landscape under the banner of the “New Turkey” politics. On the other hand a “brave new Turkey” addresses the creative conflict and resistance against this dystopian moment of governing bodies, urban space, and ecology. Indeed, this research deals with the continuous efforts of various groups who claim their place in their “new Turkey.” Under the current political and social circumstances, I consider this an act of bravery. After all, a new Turkey belongs not only to the hegemonically powerful but also to those who shape the country’s future through their creative struggle for diversity and inclusion.

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