Teaching the Middle East: From Iraq to Palestine

This four-part lecture/workshop series revisits the Muslim world's involuntary and clumsy transition from empire to nation-state, and the challenges that this transition presents for billions of people around the world. The goal is to present a new pedagogical approach that accurately captures the realities of the modern Muslim world, while carefully avoiding Islamophobic tropes.

Dates: Thursday Feb. 16, Feb. 23, March 2, March 9.

Time: 6:30pm

Location: Surrey Campus, FIR 234

*Refreshments and snacks will be served.

Part 1: The Nation, the State, and the Nation-State - 16 Feb
The aforementioned terms (along with country and homeland) are often used interchangeably with little thought or care given to their distinctive meanings. And yet, despite their ubiquitous usage, and despite the enormous success of nationalism and the nation-state over the last two centuries, most people would struggle to explain what a nation-state actually is. This session aims to provide meaningful definitions for these terms, while also introducing the audience to the pre-modern institutions which once served state-like functions in the Muslim world.
Part 2: The Ottoman Empire - From Empire to Nation State - 23rd Feb
Between 1830-1914, the Ottoman Empire's ruling elite sent the Sublime State on a clumsy and involuntary transition from empire to nation-state. During this tumultuous period (sometimes referred to as the long 19th century), the Muslim world tackled questions of sovereignty, religion, equality, tolerance and governance head-on. What emerged was the Muslim world's response to the challenges of modernity. This talk will introduce the audience to some of the Muslim world's indigenous responses to modernity.
Part 3: Alternative Futures - 3rd March
The final decades of the Ottoman Empire's existence saw several visions for the region's future compete head-to-head for the affection and loyalty of the literate masses. With the Empire's defeat in the first world war, these competing visions congealed into two distinct camps: that of national independence (in accordance with the post-war "peace"), and that of transnational unity. This talk, which will focus primarily on the Palestinian ruling elite of the time, will give the audience a behind-the-scenes look at the various futures that did not come to fruition.
Part 4: Dark Age (Failed States, Failed Nations, and Failed Nation-States) - 9th March
The region which stretches from the southern Mediterranean all the way to the southern tip of the Persian Gulf is often depicted as little more than a colossal geo-political dumpster fire. Most people who are alive today have never seen a Middle East (or, more broadly, a Muslim world) at peace. Explanations often refer to corruption, or religion as the culprits behind the region's instability. Using the language of this lecture series, this final session will share with attendees a new way of thinking about the instability in the Middle East.