March 4, 2020, 12:00pm
Locusts of Power: Borders, Environment, and Empire in the Modern Middle East
Presenter: Samuel Dolbee
Location: College Hall 209 | University of Pennsylvania Campus

This talk draws on Dr. Dolbee's research, primarily on sources in Arabic, French, Ottoman, and Turkish, to complicate narratives about borders in the Jazira region in Syria. He does so by following the locust – an insect whose devastating swarms offer a path out of histories framed by the boundaries of states – which aids in showing that it was not state boundaries or nationalist feelings on their own that transformed people’s lives in this region, but rather the settlement campaigns and synthetic pesticides that constituted the region’s changing political economy. This project, which spans from 1860 to 1940, bridges Ottoman and post-Ottoman periodizations and offers a retelling of history that reaches beyond nationalist historiographies – Iraqi, Syrian, or Turkish – that have conventionally carved up this region’s history.

Samuel Dolbee is a Fellow in the Agrarian Studies Program at Yale University. He previously held fellowships at Harvard University's Mahindra Humanities Center and Brandeis University's Crown Center for Middle East Studies. He completed his PhD in 2017 from New York University. His article "The Desert at the End of Empire" will appear in a forthcoming issue of Past & Present. He is the editor-in-chief of the Ottoman History Podcast.  

Middle East Center; co-sponsored by: History Department, Near Eastern Languages and Cultures Department (NELC), Penn Program in Environmental Humanities (PPEH)