At the end of the First World War, the Shi`i community of Jabal `Amil, along with other communities of the Arab Ottoman provinces, found themselves without a clearly defined political allegiance. Challenged by the breakdown of the Ottoman state and the rise of contending power dynamics between the colonial powers and emerging local players such as Amir Faysal, the `Amilis needed to establish a new identity to represent themselves. By 1943, this identity had developed within a newly formed Lebanese state.
This dissertation examines the evolution of the Shi`i `Amili identity in the period of the formation of the “new” Lebanon. It underlines the impact of local and regional politics as well as the cultural influences, Muslim as well as Christian, for the formation of this identity. This study is one component in a growing effort towards addressing the current shortcomings of scholarship on Lebanon and Arab Shi`ism respectively. It both analyzes the historical narrative and provides a methodological model. At the historical level, it surveys and provides an account of the evolution of the Shi`i `Amili community politically and culturally in the course of the Mandate period, and discusses its most salient events. Methodologically, it presents a model for the transformation of this community from a marginal to an active, politically participating one, through its use of matlabiyya , a politics of demand.
This study also highlights the transformation of Arab nationalism from an ideology of opposition, protest, and empowerment of marginal communities (whether Arab Muslim, Christian or rural) into a tool for the assertion of political domination by the majority. This dissertation also provides an examination of an Arab Shi`i community without the common assumptions of Irano-centrism and the primordial importance of the religious institution. It approaches the `Amili community as an independent subject with relations to neighboring communities, while avoiding the pitfall of viewing this history solely in relation to the Iran or Najaf connection which has been emphasized in previous studies.
An additional result of this dissertation is to underline the limitations and short-comings of a unitary nationalist history, as has been the case in Lebanon.
In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, Muslim and Greek Orthodox inhabitants of Istanbul were becoming more alike in terms of the way they lived and conducted their daily lives; on the other hand, the Greek Orthodox community (or certain members thereof) was also becoming more aware of itself as an entity distinct both from other groups that comprised the empire as well as from the Ottoman state that granted it varying degrees of sovereignty and autonomy. Both trends existed simultaneously: a growing feeling of a group identity, based on a distinct sense of a Greek heritage, did not undermine the sense of being an integral part of the fabric of Ottoman society.
The type of sovereignty the Ottoman state exercised over the Greek Orthodox community played a significant role in how the members of this portion of the subject population articulated their perceptions of their place in Istanbul at the turn of the eighteenth century. The paradoxical situation reveals itself in which the more Greek Orthodox subjects avail themselves of Ottoman institutions such as the Imperial Divan, the more decisions rendered there create an environment which fosters a heightened sense of belonging to a distinct group. This is, moreover, the period in which, for the first time, Greek Orthodox are incorporated into the state apparatus without conversion to Islam. Leading Greek Orthodox thus become leading Ottomans as well.
Ottoman archival documents found in the mühimme (“important affairs”) and s˛ikayet (“complaint”) registers supply the state's perspective on the degree of sovereignty granted the Greek Orthodox community while Greek literary sources provide viewpoints from within the elite of the community of its role in Ottoman society. Philological and textual analyses reveal the repetition and evolution in the meaning of certain Ottoman and Greek terms, such as, respectively, tā`ife (“group”) and genos (“nation”). It is in the interplay of all these terms in dialogue with one another that the dynamic influence of the exercise of Ottoman sovereignty over the Greek Orthodox population of Istanbul in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries may be discerned.
This dissertation explores the growing influence of sheikhs in the lives of the ulema during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries as represented in the work of an Ottoman `ālim. My subject, the prominent biographer Nev'īzāde `Atā'ī (1583–1635), gives us a rich picture of the relationship between the ulema and sheikhs of his times and the past two generations in his biographical dictionary, the Hadā'ikü'l-Hakā'ik fī Tekmileti'l-Sakā'īk. Through an examination of what `Atā'ī chose to narrate, omit, and alter when presenting the life stories of the sheikhs, I argue that rather than a timeless opposition or an unchanging alliance between the ulema and sheikhs, the interactions of these two groups during this period was characterized by a new emphasis among a certain group of the ulema and the sheikhs on acceptance of the authority of the Ottoman sultan in this world as well as the valorization of otherworldliness.
To identify the ways in which `Atā'ī's interests shaped the Hadā'ik, the first two chapters examine the biographer and his work within the context of social circles, literary pursuits, and the Ottoman biography tradition of the time. I propose that much like his patrons among the high ranking ulema of Istanbul and his friends from the provincial notables, Atā'ī was a member of an old elite and shared their interest in transmitting and transforming sixteenth-century literary traditions, such as composing the Hadā'ik. The following three chapters focus on three themes which Atā'ī chose to emphasize in his narration of the lives of the sheikhs and their relations with the ulema. The third chapter discusses `Atā'ī's views on the persecution of the sheikhs during the sixteenth century, to examine how a seventeenth-century `ālim with Sufi sympathies would represent the struggle between the sheikhs and the Ottoman authorities. As the strife between the sheikhs and the ulema during the sixteenth century did not hinder young ulema from choosing the Sufi path as an alternative to the `ilmiyye, the fourth chapter examines Atā'ī's representation of this career change and reveals a so far unexplored interest of the learned circles of this period with otherworldliness. `Atā'ī's concern with otherworldliness in the Hadā'ik is explored farther in the last chapter, which aims to understand the place of the sheikhs in the cosmos of `Atā'ī.
This dissertation addresses the efforts of contemporary Jewish Israelis to harness the new reproductive technologies to the task of reproducing Jews. In my thesis, based on two years of ethnographic fieldwork in Israel, I focus particular analytic attention on the unusual confluence of social forces that have come together to enable unmarried Israeli women to conceive and give birth to children using state-subsidized, rabbinically-sanctioned artificial insemination. This ethnographic focus serves to highlight my larger theoretical concerns about how cultures are produced, contested and transformed through cultural imaginings of reproduction.
At the core of my research lies the question: How are Jews believed to come into being? A question that both secular and religious Jewish Israelis have been hard-pressed and yet eager to answer as they attempt to create cogent legislation for the appropriate uses of reproductive technology to assist in the reproduction of Jews. Indeed, the fact that secular legislation regarding the new reproductive technologies is grounded in orthodox rabbinic interpretations of Halakhic sources makes for very imaginative and innovative laws concerning the appropriate combinations of reproductive genetic material.
My dissertation research is grounded in two methodologies; one half of the dissertation is based on traditional ethnographic field research among Israelis who are using the new reproductive technologies to get pregnant; the second half is based on textual analysis of public discourse, government documents, legal materials and rabbinic responsa concerning the origins and nature of relatedness.
This research contributes directly to current anthropological debates about the nature of kinship and the ways the new reproductive technologies force cultural assumptions about relatedness to become explicit. I argue that the social uses of the new reproductive technologies in Israel do not necessarily destabilize foundational assumptions about kinship, nor do they necessarily privilege biogenetic understandings of relatedness. Indeed, in Israel the social uses of these technologies serve to enhance the authority of rabbinic conceptions of kinship while reinforcing the cultural imperative to reproduce.
My dissertation, "Colonized Colonizers: Egyptian Nationalists and the Issue of the Sudan, 1875-1919," examines the seemingly contradictory identification with both the colonizer and the colonized that shaped the inception and the development of the Egyptian nationalist movement. This paradox of identifications began during a strange confluence of political events in Egyptian and Sudanese history. The first Egyptian nationalist movement, known as the 'Urabi revolt, arose in 1881, only to meet defeat at the hands of the British, who invaded and occupied Egypt in 1882. The same year that sparked the 'Urabi rebellion in Egypt also witnessed an even more popular and powerful uprising in the Sudan, the Mahdi's rebellion. The leader of this movement aimed to rid the Sudan of the Egyptian administration, which had been established after Egypt conquered the Sudan in 1820. By 1884, the Mahdi had succeeded in besieging Khartoum, the last stronghold of the Egyptian army. By 1885, the Egyptians had lost all authority in the Sudan to the Mahdi.
In roughly four years, then, Egyptians had become occupied by the British and in effect colonized, while simultaneously losing their territory in the Sudan. These linked events produced a startling phenomenon in Egyptian nationalism. The same Egyptians who called for the overthrow of the British and proclaimed Egypt's rights to self-determination also demanded the reconquest of the Sudan, and the return of the region to Egyptian hegemony.
Many of these nationalists concerned with Egyptian independence and Sudanese dependence also participated in a literary renaissance in Egypt, in which they cultivated the arts of journalism, plays, poetry, short stories and songs. These new media became the instruments by which the nationalists could project their image of Egypt, and share that image with an ever-broadening community of Egyptians.
The Sudan and the Sudanese often became the background against which nationalist writers measured and evaluated their own society. When these writers discussed the Sudan or represented its people, their conflictual identification with both colonizer and colonized emerged. My dissertation examines the work of prominent nationalist writers and thinkers and how they used the Sudan and the Sudanese in their construction of Egyptian national identity.