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The Middle East Center at Penn sponsors and supports programs and initiatives across the disciplines and professional schools, and runs a dynamic outreach program in the Delaware Valley. Faculty and students at Penn are also active and prominent in the field of Middle East studies, making significant and highly regarded contributions to scholarly output in their areas of interest. We will continue to update news of the Center's activities and highlight the achievements of our faculty and students here.

Dr. Ranin Kazemi (San Diego State University) Join the Middle East Center for an evening with Professor Ranin Kazemi. In this lecture Dr. Kazemi will discuss the Tobacco Protest which swept across Iran and the broader Shi'ite world in 1891-92. The movement was one of the earliest revolutionary movements in the history of the modern Middle East. In many ways it was comparable to the 1882 'Urabi Revolt in Egypt and the 1857 Mutiny in British India. The Tobacco Protest marks the beginnings of a national movement that eventually defined modern Iran. Based on several years of extensive research in French, American, British, Ottoman, and Iranian archives, this lecture explains why the majority of Iranians supported and partook in this protest. The previous literature has explained why the merchants, the clerics, and the intellectuals participated in the Tobacco Movement. Kazemi's research will explain why the urban poor, the working-class population, and women joined the protest. Disentangling and explicating the various factors that contributed to the making of the Tobacco Protest, this presentation argues that the single most important cause of popular mobilization was a set of ecological and environmental crises in Iran during and immediately before the protest (1890-92). This environmental stress, which was then combined with and compounded by a series of socioeconomic crises, put an enormous amount of strain on the majority of the population throughout much of this period. The environmental factors included widespread epidemics, cattle plagues, locust attacks, famine, earthquakes, and extreme shifts in temperature with devastating consequences for the rank and file of the population. The socioeconomic crises consisted of massive unemployment, declining wages, severe inflation, and declining standards of living. In such an environment, the poor and lower middle layers of society had recourse to an “economy of makeshifts” where they engaged in a variety of schemes and stratagems in order to bear the increasing pressure that was put on them. These activities which could also be described as “weapons of the weak” included theft, poaching, prostitution, tribal raids, and other forms of public crimes and violence. The massive popular participation in the Tobacco Movement should be understood in this environmental and socioeconomic context. It was the material grievances of the majority of the population that eventually brought them to join the ranks of merchants, clerics, and intellectuals and to participate in the Tobacco Protest. About Dr. Ranin Kazemi: Professor Kazemi earned a Ph.D. in History at Yale University in December 2012. He is interested in social and environmental history with a focus on the Middle East and North Africa, as well as the Caucasus, and Central and South Asia. In August 2012, he joined the Department of History at Kansas State University where he taught courses in a wide variety of topics concerning the history of the Middle East and North Africa, as well as world history, historical methodology, and the international and social history of the Cold War. Beginning this fall, he will join the Department of History at San Diego State University where he will continue teaching and researching on the broader Middle East and North Africa. Professor Kazemi has published in leading journals in his field and is currently working on a book manuscript entitled "The Ecology of Conflict: Privation, Protest, and Populism in Iran, 1850-1892." This project traces the economic, environmental, social, and political origins of one of the earliest national revolutionary movements in the modern Middle East. To complete this work, he has conducted research in Iranian, Turkish, British, French, Dutch, and American archives. His research has been supported by, among others, the International Institute of Social History and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation, the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, the American Research Institute in Turkey, the American Institute of Iranian Studies, and the Yale University Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies.