CANCELLED: The Middle East and the Great War

AHA Session 123
Friday, January 3, 2014: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM
Washington Room 4 (Marriott Wardman Park)
Julia A. Clancy-Smith, University of Arizona
Julia A. Clancy-Smith, University of Arizona

Session Abstract

The cataclysm of the Great War seemed to transform all aspects of life in the Middle East.  The imperial state was washed away, giving rise to small state structures conceived, given shape, and implemented by the victorious Great Powers.  Any remaining Ottoman identity was to be replaced by new national belonging: Syrians, Iraqis, and Jordanians were to stand where Ottoman subjects had previously walked.  Their merchandise now would be required to cross state boundaries, and seeking work would come at the cost of moving across national borders.  The rulers of the new states would have to walk a tightrope between the demands of Great Power patrons and the needs of the new "national" governed. 

While changes at the official level transformed political life and commerce, the war itself brought death, disease and destruction to the population.  As in much of the rest of the war-torn world, massive casualties were the result of influenza, and displacement gave rise to homelessness and starvation.  International agencies emphasized the plight of fellow Christians throughout the Ottoman empire, the victims not only of war and displacement, but also of massacre and expulsion. 

These demographic shifts combined with official redefinitions challenged former Ottoman subjects to reconsider their affiliations and identities.  What, now, would constitute belonging in the newly formulated societies?  Who could be called a Turk, an Iraqi, a Syrian?  What did being Egyptian mean, and who qualified for the category?

These papers will explore recent scholarship that seeks to make sense of the transformation brought to the region by the Great War and suggest ways to further interrogate the new sources and paradigms that are arising.

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