February 17, 2011, 12:00pm
Writing a Transnational History of the Mandate Levant: Research Ideas and Questions
Presenter: Cyrus Schayegh, Princeton University
Location: Griski Room, Houston Hall

Our understanding of the post-Ottoman Levant still follows a country-by-country logic. In contrast, "The Formation of the Post-Ottoman Levant: A Regional History, 1918-1950"—the book project he will discuss with you— argues that because the Levant was strongly integrated by World War I, its subsequent division also, simultaneously (and somewhat counter-intuitively) begat further integration. New, now diverging 'national economies' had equally diverging material needs met by old (and new) cross-border movements of goods and people, advancing (lopsided) regional integration. Also, while colonial authorities protected their lands, trans-border movements, some politically explosive, forced them to also build regional legal-bureaucratic mechanisms. Last, especially in the Yishuv and Syria, political (and some commercial) elites pursued regional projects and activities that conflicted the longer the more, with the Arab Revolt (1936-39) apparently being a turning point.

Cyrus Schayegh earned his PhD in Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Literatures from Columbia University. He has also spent time as a journalist in Tehran and a history professor in Lebanon. He is the author of Who Is Knowledgeable Is Strong: Science, Class, and the Formation of Modern Iranian Society, 1900-1950, which focuses on the interaction of technology, economy, and politics. His academic interests include borders and smuggling in the interwar Levant, social history of the Middle East, the history of Arab-Israeli relations under the British Mandate, and modern Iran.

Middle East Center