This panel reverses the telescope, to consider the multitude of ways in which the Middle East has in fact shaped international history in the twentieth century. It brings together historians from diverse backgrounds and specializations in order to trace the trajectories of people, ideas, technologies, systems, and norms originating in the Mashreq and Maghreb, as they radiated outward to Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas.
The first paper highlights the connected histories of the British Raj and Mandate Palestine between the end of the First World War and the resort to partition in 1947-8. It traces interactions between Indians, Arabs, Zionists, and British administrators, and the rapid ascent of 'partition thinking' among both nationalists and imperial administrators beginning in the late 1930s. The second paper examines how al-Azhar, an ancient center of Islamic learning in Cairo, catalyzed new Islamic modernist conceptions of regional solidarity among its East Asian students in the immediate pre- and post-World War II contexts. The “Far Eastern Islamic Federation” they envisioned represents a lost history of Asian Muslims’ attempts to balance national, regional, and global Islamic identities in an emergent era of decolonization and Cold War. The third paper considers the Arab ‘Nakbah’, or disaster, of 1948 as both a global event and a concept in Arab historiography. It traces the ways in which armed conflict in the interwar Middle East transformed the meaning of disaster, from a framework for understanding time and causality, towards a call for action, resistance, and social reform. The fourth paper interrogates how the Algerian Revolution operated and resonated with Third World radicals across the 1960s and '70s. It traces the regional and international political arrangements made possible through Algiers’ transformation into a revolutionary city, which played host to radical movements, from the Palestine Liberation Organization and South Vietnamese National Liberation Front, to the Black Panthers.