Citizens and Other Human Kinds in the Modern Middle East

AHA Session 188
Saturday, January 4, 2014: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM
Columbia Hall 12 (Washington Hilton)
Sara Pursley, International Journal of Middle East Studies
The Making of Nationality: Citizens, Foreign Nationals, and (Un)Humans in 1920s Egypt
Jeffrey Culang, City University of New York, Graduate Center
The Production of the Iraqi Family Farmer in the Age of Development
Sara Pursley, International Journal of Middle East Studies
Humanitarian Governance and Palestinian Refugees
Ilana Feldman, George Washington University
Max Weiss, Princeton University

Session Abstract

The panel “Citizens and Other Human Kinds in the Modern Middle East” explores colonial, legal, and humanitarian regimes in the Middle East from the 19th to the 21st centuries that have worked to classify, produce, protect, and manage different “human kinds” (Ian Hacking 1995). While many historical studies of the modern Middle East have explored the formation of new national categories and, though to a lesser extent, questions of citizenship, much of it has focused on critiquing essentialist identities or exclusionary laws, sometimes reproducing overly simplistic binaries of inclusion/exclusion in the process. Each of the papers presented here carefully traces how specific categories of humans have been deployed in a particular historical context, paying attention not only to the productive powers of classifications but also to their frequent multi-layeredness and internal tensions as well as to how the subjects thus produced have experienced, utilized, challenged, embraced, shifted, and sometimes transformed the categories to which—and through which—they belong. The contexts include North African Jewish merchant communities embedded in multiple national and regional networks and affiliations as they negotiated France’s conquest of Algeria in the 1830s and the new categories it deployed; the logics and effects of the 1929 Egyptian nationality law, which both inherited and transformed a multi-layered scale of belonging/unbelonging to Egypt that was established by the British colonial state and included shifting delineations of Muslims, Copts, and Jews; a 1945 land settlement law in Iraq that aimed to produce a new kind of rural citizen, the “independent” or “family” farmer, which it did by embedding him in legal, social, and spatial grids dependent on and productive of other human and non-human kinds (such as women, children, and animals); and regimes of humanitarian assistance that have classified, produced, governed, protected, and policed Palestinian refugees since 1945, especially as these regimes have been experienced by their subjects/beneficiaries/victims in relation to questions of representation, living conditions, access to resources, and belonging. Including three historians and a historical anthropologist, this panel brings together a wide range of interdisciplinary concerns, approaches, and methodologies related to colonialism and empire, nation-state formation, liberalism and citizenship, governmentality, development and humanitarianism, and minority and human rights. It will be of interest to scholars working on the history of the modern Middle East, legal history, postcolonial studies, and histories of religion, gender, and family.

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