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Easter Term 2018

Middle Eastern Studies Seminar Series

Easter Term, 2018

Unless otherwise arranged and noted below, all seminars take place on Thursdays at 5:15pm (refreshments available from 5pm) in Rooms 8 & 9 in the Faculty of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies. Admission is free and all are welcome.

[ Series poster ]

  • Thursday, 10th May, 2018 in Rooms 8 & 9 at 5:15pm
    Al-ihbat al-masihi: Christian populism and dreams of lost sovereignty in contemporary Lebanon
    Dr Andrew Arsan, Senior Lecturer in Modern Middle Eastern History, Faculty of History, University of Cambridge

    Since the 1990s, commentators on Lebanon have focused on the disillusion and decline of the country's Christian communities. In this paper, I re-examine the politics of Christian populism, and the ways in which the tropes of lost demographic and political superiority and growing insecurity have underwritten Christian partisanship.

    Andrew Arsan is a historian of the Arabic-speaking Eastern Mediterranean, particularly interested in the cultural, social, political and intellectual histories of the Ottoman and post-Ottoman Levant; in diaspora and the trans-regional circulation of people; in French and British imperialism in the Mediterranean and beyond; and in histories of political thought and intellectual life in the world beyond Europe. He has recently completed a study of Lebanon in the years since 2005. Entitled Lebanon: A Country in Fragments, this will be published by Hurst & Company in the summer of 2018. This is an account not just of Lebanon’s high politics, with its endless rows, walk-outs, machinations and foreign alliances, but also of the politics of everyday life: all the stresses and strains the country’s inhabitants face, from electricity black-outs and uncollected rubbish to stagnating wages and property bubbles.

  • Thursday, 24th May, 2018 in Rooms 8 & 9 at 5:15pm
    Nation, Trauma, and other not-so-universal ideas re-imagined in Arabic Literature
    Dr Nora Parr, SOAS, University of London

    The ‘nation’ is often assumed to operate as the framework of Arabic literary works, setting a particular organization of the space, time, and meaning of narrative. These embedded assumptions, however, are based on a European/Western construction of what the nation, as a concept, is. A reading of Palestinian national texts illuminates not only the assumptions of the nation as a narrative concept (as a location that takes on meaning within retrospectively constructed homogeneous empty time), but also proposes an alternative. So, while the nation may still operate as a foundational structure for the text, just what ‘nation’ means is revealed as fundamentally different. Not only does this offer a new way of understanding and imagining the nation, it begs the question: what other presumed frameworks might need to be re-evaluated? Marking the development of a new research project re-examining concepts of ‘trauma’ and theory around the representation of violence, the presentation looks at why current frameworks don't fit literature of the Palestinian Nakba, the Lebanese Civil War, or the Arab Spring, as three preliminary examples, and puts forward some hypotheses about why trauma here is not written as ‘out of time,’ or ‘other’ to the everyday, and why this matters.

    Dr Nora Parr is Postdoctoral Researcher for the Open World Research Initiative’s project on Creative Multilingualism. Her work explores the nexus of literature, theory, and translation. Her research for the AHRC-funded project examines notions of trauma in Arabic Literature from the Levant and Egypt. It forms a case study and experimental methodology for a larger question of ‘Translating Theory,’ which looks to cultural texts to re-define words that are often imported from a dominant context. This comes in the wake of a PhD project, currently being prepared as a monograph. The work, titled Nation Constellation, uses Palestinian literature—in particular the works of Ibrahim Nasrallah and his ‘Palestine Comedies’ and ‘Balconies’ series—to offer an alternative model for the imagined national community. Prior to taking up her post, Dr Parr was Lecturer in Comparative Literature and English at King’s College, London, and held a 2015-16 Fellowship with the Council for British Research in the Levant (CBRL) at both the British Institute (Jordan), and the Kenyon Institute (East Jerusalem). Her PhD is from SOAS.

For further information, contact:

Dr Charis Olszok
Lecturer in Modern Arabic Literature and Culture
Faculty of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies
University of Cambridge

Telephone: +44(0)1223 765083