HIST 6801 History of the Modern Middle East
Until recently, much of the historical writing about the modern Middle East was burdened by methodological nationalism—the search for the cultural, political, and economic origins of each of the individual successor states that emerged after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. This state-by-state approach defies the lived experience of Ottoman subjects/citizens in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Our course begins by surveying the central forces that swept the empire from the late-eighteenth century until its wartime demise in 1918. It then explores the legacies of Ottoman rule and European intervention up through the 1948 war in Palestine/Israel. Geographically, we will focus on the provinces of Anatolia (which became Turkey) and the Arab East. Thematically, we will focus on the ways that people from a variety of backgrounds in the region led, championed, criticized, and made the most of the central changes that we associate with the modern era: the emergence of an integrated world economy and the rise of the nation-state. Our readings will touch on the uneven incorporation of the Ottoman Empire in the global capitalist market; the expansion of the state alongside the emergence of mass politics; the novel mobilities and subjectivities enabled by the invention of new communications and transportation technologies, and the messy transition from empire to colonized nation-states. Throughout the semester we will question conventional binaries that often plague analyses of the region: East/West, modernity/tradition, Arab (or Muslim)/Jew, constitutionalism/Islam. We will also trace the ways that European intervention and local grievances led to the violent “unmixing” of peoples in Ottoman lands. Above all, we will work to de-exceptionalize the region—that is, to situate Middle East history in a global context.