For most of recorded history, empires and imperial regimes have existed in one form or another and have shaped the lives of peoples of the Middle East. And yet the concept of Empire is often assumed to be clearly defined, almost eternal, even though empire took different shapes across history, including the history of the Middle East. Furthermore, current theories of empire tend to be Eurocentric and to focus on contemporary power structures in the post-colonial and post-modern period, with less reference to historical empires.
This coming session of AUC’s Annual History Seminar aims to look more carefully at empire as a theoretical concept and its changing definitions, and how it shaped and was shaped by interactions with peoples. How do these concepts apply to medieval, early modern of modern empires? How do they apply to world empires that ruled the Middle East?
We invite abstracts of around 300 words in either English and Arabic for presentations that would revolve around the theories and concepts of Empire as they relate to different empires with particular interest in studies, comparative or otherwise, that relate to Middle East history.
The themes that the seminar aims to tackle include:
- What is Empire? Are there features that are common to all empires? Is Empire as a concept or category of analysis useful to studying the history of the Middle East? How can we classify empires? What forms of Empire can historians distinguish in the history of the Middle East? To what extent were tributary, commercial or colonial empires different in their relations with their subject populations?
- Empire and Power: Where does imperial power lie; in the center, in capital cities, or is it more diffuse? Power within empires and the use of violence. How do empires control resources? Do power and agency lie squarely with certain elites?
- Empire and Time: How did empires change and transform over time? What influenced such changes? What role did technologies, including military technologies, play in such transformation? How do empires maintain longevity?
- Empire and Religion: Did empires impose religions? How did they make political use of Religion?
- Empire and Culture: Can we speak of imperial culture? How far did empires impose cultural change and to what extent were they themselves shaped by culture?
- Why Empire? What were the objectives behind the formation of empires, and the historical circumstances that allowed and shaped their development?
- Can Empires be compared? To what use? Many theories and studies of empire tend to be Euro-centric. Can they still shed light on historical experiences of empires based in the Middle East?
- Empire and Population/Demography: One criterion often used in defining empires is that they contain diverse populations of various backgrounds and ethnicities that are often controlled by a dominant group. Does this offer an angle into studying Middle East empires?
The sessions of the seminar are scheduled for Friday 8 and Saturday 9 March, 2024 at Oriental Hall, Tahrir Square Campus of the American University in Cairo. Participants should plan to speak for around 20 minutes in either English or Arabic. Abstracts of around 300 words, in either language, are expected by 1 December, 2023. Graduate students and PhD candidates are encouraged to apply. Participants will be informed by late December 2023. Please send abstracts to firstname.lastname@example.org with carbon copies to the organizers.
Inquiries can be directed to either of the organizers:
Dr Nelly Hanna email@example.com
Dr Amina Elbendary firstname.lastname@example.org