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November 20th, 2020

12:00 P.M. ET

Via WebEx

For some, the idea of an Islamic state serves to fulfill aspirations for cultural sovereignty and new forms of ethical political practice. For others, it violates the proper domains of both religion and politics. Yet, while there has been much discussion of the idea and ideals of the Islamic state, its possibilities and impossibilities, surprisingly little has been written about how this political formation is lived. For Love of the Prophet looks at the Republic of Sudan’s twenty-five-year experiment with Islamic statehood. Focusing not on state institutions, but rather on the daily life that goes on in their shadows, Noah Salomon’s careful ethnography examines the lasting effects of state Islamization on Sudanese society through a study of the individuals and organizations working in its midst.

Salomon investigates Sudan at a crucial moment in its history—balanced between unity and partition, secular and religious politics, peace and war—when those who desired an Islamic state were rethinking the political form under which they had lived for nearly a generation. Countering the dominant discourse, Salomon depicts contemporary Islamic politics not as a response to secularism and Westernization but as a node in a much longer conversation within Islamic thought, augmented and reappropriated as state projects of Islamic reform became objects of debate and controversy.

Among the first books to delve into the making of the modern Islamic state, For Love of the Prophet reveals both novel political ideals and new articulations of Islam as it is rethought through the lens of the nation.

Noah Salomon is Associate Professor of Religion at Carleton College, where he teaches courses in Islamic Studies and the anthropology of religion.

His first book, For Love of the Prophet: An Ethnography of Sudan's Islamic State (Princeton University Press 2016), is a study of the implementation and itinerary of Sudan's Islamic state project as it was lived-out and contested over a period of 20 years. It won the 2017 Albert Hourani Prize from the Middle East Studies Association as well as the 2017 Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion in Analytical-Descriptive Studies from the American Academy of Religion.

Subsequent research has focused on the establishment of state secularism in the new nation of South Sudan as a mode of unraveling the Islamic State and the concomitant construction of a Muslim minority as part of a nascent project of nation-building.

Joel Blecher is a scholar of Islamic history and Islamic thought at the George Washington University. His research, which combines methods from social and intellectual history, is grounded in archives and field sites in Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkey, and India, as well as various manuscript libraries across Europe and North America. His first book, Said the Prophet of God: Hadith Commentary across a Millennium (University of California Press, 2018), explores the rich history of the practice of hadith commentary in the times and places it flourished the most—classical Andalusia, medieval Egypt, and early modern India.  

 

 

October 22nd, 2020

12:00 P.M. ET

Via WebEx

The production of history is premised on the selective erasure of certain pasts and the artifacts that stand witness to them. From the elision of archival documents to the demolition of sacred and secular spaces, each act of destruction is also an act of state building. Following the 1991 Gulf War, political elites in Saudi Arabia pursued these dual projects of historical commemoration and state formation with greater fervor to enforce their postwar vision for state, nation, and economy. Seeing Islamist movements as the leading threat to state power, they sought to de-center religion from educational, cultural, and spatial policies.

With this book, Rosie Bsheer explores the increasing secularization of the postwar Saudi state and how it manifested in assembling a national archive and reordering urban space in Riyadh and Mecca. The elites' project was rife with ironies: in Riyadh, they employed world-renowned experts to fashion an imagined history, while at the same time in Mecca they were overseeing the obliteration of a thousand-year-old topography and its replacement with commercial megaprojects. Archive Wars shows how the Saudi state's response to the challenges of the Gulf War served to historicize a national space, territorialize a national history, and ultimately refract both through new modes of capital accumulation.

Rosie Bsheer is a historian of the modern Middle East at Harvard University. Her teaching and research interests center on Arab intellectual and social movements, petro-capitalism and state formation, and the production of historical knowledge and commemorative spaces. She is the author of Archive Wars: The Politics of History in Saudi Arabia (Stanford University Press, August 2020).She teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on oil and empire, social and intellectual movements, petro-modernity, political economy, historiography, and the making of the modern Middle East. She is Associate Producer of the 2007 Oscar-nominated film My Country, My Country, Co-Editor of Jadaliyya E-zine, and Associate Editor of Tadween Publishing.

Bsheer’s work has been supported by the Mellon Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), the Whiting Foundation, and the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life. She received her Ph.D. in History from Columbia University (2014) and comes to Harvard University from Yale University, where she was Assistant Professor of History (2014–2018). She is the recipient of the Poorvu Family Award for Interdisciplinary Teaching at Yale University (2017) and Yale College’s Sarai Ribicoff ‘75 Award for the Encouragement of Teaching (2018).

Ahmed Kanna is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of the Pacific. His research has focused on the politics of globalization, urbanism, and cultural and national identity in the Arab/Persian Gulf region. He has written numerous publications including, Dubai, The City as Corporation (2011, University of Minnesota Press, excerpted in the 2014 Routledge Cities of the Global South Reader, edited by Faranak Miraftab and Neema Kudva); Rethinking Global Urbanism (with  Xiangming Chen); and The Superlative City (2013, Harvard University Press).

September 24th, 2020

12:00 P.M. ET

Via WebEx

In 2006 Abu Dhabi launched an ambitious project to construct the world’s first zero-carbon city: Masdar City. In Spaceship in the Desert Gökçe Günel examines the development and construction of Masdar City's renewable energy and clean technology infrastructures, providing an illuminating portrait of an international group of engineers, designers, and students who attempted to build a post-oil future in Abu Dhabi. While many of Masdar's initiatives—such as developing a new energy currency and a driverless rapid transit network—have stalled or not met expectations, Günel analyzes how these initiatives contributed to rendering the future a thinly disguised version of the fossil-fueled present. Spaceship in the Desert tells the story of Masdar, at once a “utopia” sponsored by the Emirati government, and a well-resourced company involving different actors who participated in the project, each with their own agendas and desires.

Gökçe Günel is Assistant Professor in Anthropology at Rice University. Her first book “Spaceship in the Desert: Energy, Climate Change and Urban Design in Abu Dhabi” (Duke University Press, 2019) examines the development and construction of Masdar City's renewable energy and clean technology infrastructures, providing an illuminating portrait of an international group of engineers, designers, and students who attempted to build a post-oil future in Abu Dhabi. Following her doctoral work at Cornell, Gökçe taught at Rice University, Columbia University, and the University of Arizona. Her articles have been published in Public Culture, Anthropological Quarterly, Engineering Studies, The Yearbook of Comparative Literature, Avery Review, Limn and PoLAR, among others.

Deen Sharp is an urban geographer and LSE Fellow in Human Geography whose research focuses on the political economy of urbanization in the “Middle East”. He was previously a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He holds a PhD in Earth Environmental Sciences (Geography Track) at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, a MSc in International Politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and BA in Human Geography from Queen Mary University.

He is the co-editor of Beyond the Square: Urbanism and the Arab Uprisings (Urban Research: 2016) and Open Gaza (University in Cairo Press: In Print). His most recent journal article “Difference as practice: Diffracting geography and the area studies turn” was published in Progress in Human Geography. Sharp’s doctoral dissertation focuses on the corporation and urban development in the Eastern Mediterranean.

July 15th, 2020

12:00 P.M. ET

Via Zoom

On the map of global trade, China is now the factory of the world. A parade of ships full of raw commodities -iron ore, coal, oil- arrive in its ports, and fleets of container ships leave with manufactured goods in all directions. The oil that fuels China’s manufacturing comes primarily from the Arabian Peninsula. Much of the material shipped from China are transported through the ports of Arabian Peninsula, Dubai’s Jabal Ali port foremost among them. China’s ‘maritime silk road’ flanks the Peninsula on all sides.

Sinews of War and Trade is the story of what the making of new ports and shipping infrastructures has meant not only for the Arabian Peninsula itself, but for the region and the world beyond. The book is the account of how maritime transportation is not simply an enabling adjunct of trade, but central to the very fabric of global capitalism. The ports that serve maritime trade, logistics, and hydrocarbon transport create racialised hierarchies of labour, engineer the lived environment, aid the accumulation of capital regionally and globally, and carry forward colonial regimes of profit, law and administration.

Laleh Khalili is a professor of International Politics at Queen Mary University of London. In addition to her forthcoming book "Sinews of War and Trade," she is the author of "Heroes and Martyrs of Palestine: The Politics of National Commemoration" and "Time in the Shadows: Confinement in Counterinsurgency," as well as co-editor of Policing and Prisons in the Middle East: Formations of Coercion." Her research interests include transnational movements, infrastructure, and political violence.

Pascal Menoret is a professor of Anthropology and Modern Middle East Studies at Brandeis University. He is the author of "Graveyard of Clerics: Everyday Activism in Saudi Suburbia," "Joyriding in Riyadh: Oil, Urbanism, and Road Revolt," and "The Saudi Enigma: A History." He conducted four years of fieldwork in Saudi Arabia and has lived in France, Yemen, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates.

April 1st, 2020

5:30pm

Room 505

1957 E Street NW

Washington, DC 20052

Hisham Fageeh is a Saudi-American actor, writer and producer. His work has been written about by The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, BBC, Variety, among others. 

Fageeh steadfastly straddles both American and Middle Eastern audiences. His professional trajectory began in 2011 when he started performing stand-up while working on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. A few months later he went on to receive a Master’s at Columbia University, while also studying improvisational comedy at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater (UCBT). This curiosity, with a specific interest in merging the ephemeral with the comedic landscape of early YouTube, led him to make a web series (ماشه تایعوبسا - Translated: Hisham’s Weeklies) which propelled him into an Arabic stand-up scene in Saudi Arabia. 

In the Middle East, he’s most known for his video “No Woman, No Drive,” which went viral in 2013. The video remains a hilarious satire on the debates over whether or not Saudi Arabia would let women drive (they eventually did in 2018), and Fageeh’s video was a momentous critical injection. This is part of his pointed charm, Fageeh uses comedy to highlight social issues, by turning them on their head. Using comedic tools, Fageeh questions cultural norms, even the most ubiquitous ones. 

For acting, he rose to international acclaim when he co-produced and starred in Saudi Arabia’s submission to the Oscars ‘Best Foreign Film’ of 2016, Barakah Meets Barakah. For his role, he was nominated for a Best Actor Award at the Arab Cinema Awards in Cannes, and the film premiered at the Forum section of the 66th Berlin International Film Festival, winning the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the Berlinale. In North America, the film premiered at the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres and at the 41st annual Toronto International Film Festival. It made history in 2017, when Netflix bought the distribution rights to the film, making it the first Saudi film to display on the streaming service. 

April 2nd, 2020

5:30pm

Room 505

1957 E St NW

Washington, DC 20052

State power is amplified at and through managing the sexual and sectarian intersections of political difference in Lebanon. In this lecture Maya Mikdashi employs ethnographic and archival research to frame religious conversion as a site through which to better understand this governance at the intersections of political difference, and what it may teach us about sovereignty, secularism, and state power. She suggests that bringing feminist political and legal theory into conversation with academic work on sectarian and religious difference in the Middle East allows for new perspectives on the making and management of political difference.

Maya Mikdashi is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies and a lecturer in the program in Middle East Studies at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. Maya is an anthropologist (PhD Columbia University, 2014) who is deeply engaged in ethnographic, legal, and archival theory and methodology. She currently is completing a book manuscript that examines the war on terror, sexual difference, secularism, and state power in the contemporary Middle East from the vantage point of Lebanon.

February 27th, 2020

5:30pm

Room 505

1957 E St NW

Washington, DC 20052

Challenging the widely shared pessimism among regional experts, Ishay charts bold and realistic pathways for human rights in a region beset by political repression, economic distress, sectarian conflict, a refugee crisis, and violence against women. With due attention to how patterns of revolution and counterrevolution play out in different societies and historical contexts, Ishay reveals the progressive potential of subterranean human rights forces and offers strategies for transforming current realities in the Middle East. This timely book foresees paths yet not taken, and reviewers have called it “beautiful,” “elegant,” “challenging,” “highly readable,” “seminal,” and “much-needed.” Written for a wide audience, The Levant Express has also been received very positively by Middle East experts. Ishay provides highly original and provocative analysis and much-needed insights regarding the challenges facing the Middle East and their implications for the West. 

Micheline Ishay is Distinguished Professor at the Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver, and is widely known for her writings on human rights (particularly The History of Human Rights: From Ancient Times to the Globalization Era and The Human Rights Reader). From 2010 to 2013, she worked in the Gulf region from a unique vantage point, teaching one of the first human rights courses in the Arab world just before and throughout the tumultuous events of the Arab Spring. The UAE was in the eye of a historical storm throughout her time there, and she met regularly with diplomats, world leaders, scholars and journalists from the U.S., the West, and the Arab world. As a professor at Khalifa University’s Institute for International and Civil Security, she had the privilege to learn from Emirati and Arab nationals about their hopes and fears as upheaval shook the region around them. 

May 19th, 2020

3:30pm

Via Zoom

Kirkuk is Iraq's most multilingual city, for millennia home to a diverse population. It was also where, in 1927, a foreign company first struck oil in Iraq. Over the following decades, Kirkuk became the heart of Iraq's booming petroleum industry. City of Black Gold tells a story of oil, urbanization, and colonialism in Kirkuk—and how these factors shaped the identities of Kirkuk's citizens, forming the foundation of an ethnic conflict.

Arbella Bet-Shlimon reconstructs the twentieth-century history of Kirkuk to question the assumptions about the past underpinning today's ethnic divisions. In the early 1920s, when the Iraqi state was formed under British administration, group identities in Kirkuk were fluid. But as the oil industry fostered colonial power and Baghdad's influence over Kirkuk, intercommunal violence and competing claims to the city's history took hold. The ethnicities of Kurds, Turkmens, and Arabs in Kirkuk were formed throughout a century of urban development, interactions between communities, and political mobilization. Ultimately, this book shows how contentious politics in disputed areas are not primordial traits of those regions, but are a modern phenomenon tightly bound to the society and economics of urban life.

Arbella Bet-Shlimon a historian of the modern Middle East. She is an adjunct faculty member in the University of Washington's Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization and an affiliate of the Jackson School's Middle East Center. In her research and teaching, she focuses on the politics, society and economy of twentieth-century Iraq and the broader Persian Gulf region, as well as Middle Eastern urban history.  My teaching has been recognized with several awards, including the UW's Distinguished Teaching Award.

December 5, 2019

5:30pm

1957 E St NW Room 505

Washington, DC

How do people live in unlivable places? What do the materialities of unlivability have to do with sovereignty, and with how people experience politics and ethics? Based on her forthcoming book, Waste Siege: The Life of Infrastructure in Palestine, Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins will offer an analysis unusual in the study of Palestine: it begins with the environmental, infrastructural, and aesthetic context in which Palestinians forge their lives, naming that context a “waste siege.” She argues that to speak of waste siege is to describe a series of conditions, from smelling wastes to negotiating military infrastructures, from biopolitical forms of colonial rule to experiences of governmental abandonment, from obvious targets of resistance to confusion over responsibility for the burdensome objects of daily life. The talk focuses on waste as an experience of everyday life that is continuous with, but not a result only of, occupation. Tracing Palestinians' experiences of wastes over the past decade, and their improvisations for mitigating the effects of this siege, it will consider how multiple authorities governing the West Bank—including municipalities, the Palestinian Authority, international aid organizations, and Israel—rule by waste siege, whether intentionally or not. The talk depicts waste's constant returns. It thus challenges both common formulations of waste as "matter out of place" and as the ontological opposite of the environment, by suggesting instead that waste siege be understood as an ecology of "matter with no place to go." Waste siege thus not only describes a stateless Palestine, but also becomes a metaphor for our besieged planet.

About the Author

Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Bard College. Her first book, Waste Siege: The Life of Infrastructure in Palestine, was published in 2019 and explores what happens when waste is transformed from matter out of place into matter with no place to go.

October 24, 2019

5:30pm

1957 E St NW Room 505

Washington, DC

Asma Sayeed will explore the history of women as religious scholars from the first decades of Islam through the early Ottoman period. Focusing on women’s engagement with hadīth, she analyzes dramatic chronological patterns in women’s hadīth participation in terms of developments in Muslim social, intellectual and legal history, challenging two opposing views: that Muslim women have been historically marginalized in religious education, and alternately that they have been consistently empowered thanks to early role models such as ‘Ā’isha bint Abī Bakr, the wife of the Prophet Muhammad.

 

Asma Sayeed received her PhD from the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. She was previously Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Lafayette College, where she taught courses in Islam and World Religions. She has published on topics related to Muslim women and their religious participation in journals such as Studia Islamica and Islamic Law and Society and has contributed a number of encyclopedia articles on women’s history in early and classical Islam. In 2010, she undertook archival research in Syria on Muslim women’s education in the Ayyubid and Mamluk periods under the auspices of a Fulbright fellowship. Her current project relates to Muslim education and in particular to an examination of texts and textual practices in diverse regional and historical contexts.

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