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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Online webinar
Event date: 
Thursday, 19 November, 2020 - 17:15 to 18:30
Event organiser: 

MES Public Talks Seminar given by Dr Camile Cole, University of Cambridge

The two largest landowners in nineteenth-century Basra were shaykhs Mubarak of Kuwait and Khaz‘al of Muhammera (contemporary Khorramshahr in Iran). How did these two men, normally seen today as outsiders, even foreigners, to Basra, accumulate, and then hold on, to their properties? Based on Ottoman archival material and Arabic and Persian manuscript sources, my talk shows how Mubarak and Khaz‘al used the emerging international-legal framework which tied property to nationality, in different ways, to maintain and even grow their Basra holdings. While refusing to accept any nationality, Mubarak insisted that he was an Ottoman, articulating a conception of imperial sovereignty as a contingent service-based relationship. Khaz‘al, in contrast, abandoned his family’s longtime reliance on ambiguity as a way to maintain property and authority in the Ottoman-Qajar borderlands, embracing Qajar nationality and a Qajar vernacular of power to consolidate estates on both sides of the border. In doing so, Khaz‘al also lay the groundwork for a regional elite sociality based at his Fayliyya palace south of Basra. Along with Mubarak and Talib al-Naqib of Basra, he spearheaded political autonomy campaigns in the northern Gulf, ultimately enabling Islamic modernists to articulate the region as a political arena. Framing the shaykhs’ wealth as a cultural value, reformers argued that Khaz‘al and Mubarak were the ideal leaders for an Ottoman-Arab revival, centered on the northern Gulf.  

Camille Cole is a Junior Research Fellow at Jesus College, Cambridge. She is a historian of late Ottoman Iraq and the Persian Gulf, working on histories of law, environment, and capitalism. Before coming to Cambridge, she received her PhD in History from Yale University.

Dr Assef Ashraf: