The Middle East Centre, founded in 1957 at St Antony’s College is the centre for the interdisciplinary study of the modern Middle East in the University of Oxford. Centre Fellows teach and conduct research in the humanities and social sciences with direct reference to the Arab world, Iran, Israel and Turkey, with particular emphasis on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. However, during our regular Friday seminar series, attracting a wide audience, our distinguished speakers bring topics to light that touch on contemporary issues.
War on Bodies Moral Immunity and the Psychopolitics of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Iran
Dr Orkideh Behrouzan (SOAS University of London), gives a talk for the Middle East Centre seminar series on 21st May 2021, chaired by Edmund Herzig (Faculty of Oriental Studies). Discussant: Dr Maziyar Ghiabi (University of Exeter). Iran has been one of the worst hit countries by the Coronavirus pandemic, while its pandemic response has been shaped by the politicization of the outbreak and the securitization of information about it. This landscape of suspicion reveals a particular form of biopolitics that underlies the society’s structures of social and moral immunity, which are significant in determining the afterlife of a pandemic and emerging local and global biologies and socialities. This project is an attempt to trace the psychological life of the Coronavirus pandemic and the psycho-politics of its emergence and evolution, in order to understand the specific processes and forces in which the pandemic gains a local life and what it reveals about society.
Orkideh Behrouzan is a physician, medical anthropologist, anthropologist of science and technology, and the author of Prozak Diaries: Psychiatry and Generational Memory in Iran (2016, Stanford University Press). She is the founder of the Beyond Trauma Initiative, and a bilingual author and poet in Persian and English. For more, please see: https://www.orkidehbehrouzan.com
Maziyar Ghiabi is a Wellcome Lecturer in Medical Humanities at the University of Exeter. His primary work has concerned the study of illegal drugs and ‘addiction’ in West Asia and in the global South. Maziyar’s current project is titled Living ‘Addiction’ in States of Disruption funded by Wellcome Trust (2021-26). Before this, Maziyar was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the Drugs & (Dis)Order Project, based at the SOAS (University of London) and held research and teaching positions at Oxford University, the EHESS and SciencesPO. His first book Drugs Politics: Managing Disorder in the Islamic Republic of Iran (London: Cambridge University Press, 2019, also in Open Access) was awarded the 2020 Best Book of the Year (Nikki Keddie Prize) by the Middle Eastern Studies Association (MESA). Maziyar obtained his DPhil in Politics from Oxford University in 2017
Women's Rights on The Altar of a Strategic Stake: The New Population Policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Professor Marie Ladier-Fouladi (CNRS)/ CETOBaC) gives a talk for the MEC Women's Rights Research Seminars. Chaired by Soraya Tremayne (Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology). Marie Ladier-Fouladi is a senior Researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS)/ CETOBaC (Centre d’Études Turques, Ottomanes, Balkaniques et Centrasiatiques) and professor of Political Sociology and Population Studies at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris.
Marie Ladier-Fouladi earned her Ph.D. in Demography and Social Sciences from the EHESS (École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales - Paris) in 1999 and entered CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research) in 2000. In 2012, she earned her full Professorship (Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches -HDR) in Demography and Social Sciences. The title of her HDR’s dissertation was: “Understanding the Socio-Political Change Through the Prism of Demography”. In October 2019, she joined the Centre for Turkish, Ottoman, Balkan and Central Asian Studies (CETOBaC).
Her research investigates the relationship between demographic changes and socio-political transformations, especially relying on the case of Iran. This approach consists in analyzing demographic phenomena by putting them in relation to their context, in the historical, social, economic, and political perspective. It is from this reflection on the relationship between demography and politics, and the perspectives they open up to understand social behaviors that she has defined her methodological approach. She has conducted several research projects on women and youth as new protagonists of political change in Iran, family and solidarity networks, social policy, immigration policy, political elections and population’s political horizon in Iran. She recently started working on a new research program entitled: From Global to Local: The Disturbing Future of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
In 2010, the Iranian government reversed the neo-Malthusian policy it had introduced in December 1989, and opted for a new population policy that I will define as populationist. It consisted in deploying all possible means to reach a target population of 150 million, within an unspecified timeframe though. The supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, fully endorsed this policy, and in May 2014, for the sake of speeding up the process, he drew up a strategic program in a 14-article decree, called “Population General Policies”, which sanctioned the state’s new population policy, and instructed the legislative, the executive, and the judiciary powers to implement it.
Grounded in the alleged threat of population aging due to birth control and declining fertility, the new population policy aims to accelerate population growth by reversing the downward trend in fertility. There is no doubt that the process of population aging has started in Iran, but not to the extent that this demographic evolution may justify the implementation of incentive, coercive and particularly aggressive measures in order to entice Iranian people into having more children. While, by reappropriating their fertility, Iranian women succeeded in coming out of “the male sphere of domination” and thus reaching dignity and equality, they again find themselves subject to injunctions that violate their reproductive health rights and thereby their human rights.
I first shed light on the actual yet concealed objective of the new population policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The examination of coercive as well as incentives measures shall then evidence the detrimental effect of this new policy on Iranian women's rights.
Hamid Dabashi in conversation about his new book:The Last Muslim Intellectual: The Life and Legacy of Jalal Al-e Ahmad
Hamid Dabashi (Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York), gives a talk for the Middle East Studies Centre. The first comprehensive social and intellectual biography of Jalal Al-e Ahmad, this book explores the life and legacy of Jalal Al-e Ahmad (1923-69), arguably the most prominent Iranian public intellectual of his time and contends that he was the last Muslim intellectual to have articulated a vision of Muslim worldly cosmopolitanism, before the militant Islamism of the last half a century degenerated into sectarian politics and intellectual alienation from the world at large. This unprecedented engagement with Al-e Ahmad’s life and legacy is a prelude to what Dabashi calls a post-Islamist Liberation Theology. The Last Muslim Intellectual is about expanding the wide spectrum of anticolonial thinking beyond its established canonicity and adding a critical Muslim thinker to it is an urgent task, if the future of Muslim critical thinking is to be considered in liberated terms beyond the dead-end of its current sectarian predicament. A full social and intellectual biography of Jalal Al-e Ahmad, a seminal Muslim public intellectual of the mid-20th century, this book places Al-e Ahmad’s writing and activities alongside other influential anticolonial thinkers of his time, including Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire and Edward Said. Chapters cover Jalal Al-e Ahmad’s intellectual and political life; his relationship with his wife, the novelist Simin Daneshvar; his essays; his fiction; his travel writing; his translations; and his legacy.
Hamid Dabashi is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He received a dual PhD in Sociology of Culture and Islamic Studies from the University of Pennsylvania in 1984, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University. He wrote his dissertation on Max Weber's theory of charismatic authority with Philip Rieff (1922-2006), the most distinguished Freudian cultural critic of his time. Professor Dabashi has taught and delivered lectures in many North American, European, Arab, and Iranian universities. Professor Dabashi has written twenty-five books, edited four, and contributed chapters to many more. He is also the author of over 100 essays, articles and book reviews on subjects ranging from Iranian Studies, medieval and modern Islam, and comparative literature to world cinema and the philosophy of art (trans-aesthetics). His books and articles have been translated into numerous languages, including Japanese, German, French, Spanish, Danish, Russian, Hebrew, Italian, Arabic, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Polish, Turkish, Urdu and Catalan. His books include Authority in Islam ; Theology of Discontent ; Truth and Narrative ; Close Up: Iranian Cinema, Past, Present, Future ; Staging a Revolution: The Art of Persuasion in the Islamic Republic of Iran ; Masters and Masterpieces of Iranian Cinema ; Iran: A People Interrupted ; and an edited volume, Dreams of a Nation: On Palestinian Cinema. His most recent work includes Shi’ism: A Religion of Protest (2011), The Arab Spring: The End of Postcolonialism (2012), Corpus Anarchicum: Political Protest, Suicidal Violence, and the Making of the Posthuman Body (2012), The World of Persian Literary Humanism (2012) and Being A Muslim in the World (2013).
The Tinderbox documentary film discussion
Gillian Mosely (Film Director and Producer) joins Dr Anne Irfan, Professor Eugene Rogan and our Middle East Centre webinar audience to talk about her documentary film, The Tinderbox - Israel and Palestine: time to call time? Dr Anne Irfan (Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford) and Professor Eugene Rogan (St Antony’s College, Oxford).
Extract from British Council Film website:
Knowledge is power, but lack of knowledge keeps power where politicians want it... From BAFTA-award-winning producer Gillian Mosely, in association with multi-award winners, Spring Films (NIGHT WILL FALL, THE ACT OF KILLING), THE TINDERBOX is a controversial, revealing, and timely new feature documentary exploring both sides of the Israeli Palestinian conflict. It’s the first time the facts behind the divide have been brought to the screen in a single film, and delves deep into history, as well as hearing from contemporary Israeli and Palestinian voices. Exposing surprising, shocking and uncomfortable truths, not least for its Jewish director and onscreen investigator, this is an important film that will provide valuable context and help people make up their minds – or even change them.
A first-time director, Gillian Mosely began producing films in 1997, creating, developing, producing and exec producing a wide range of high end documentaries for Arte, BBC, Channel 4, Discovery, History, ITV, NatGeo, PBS and ZDF among others. In 2017 Gillian produced her first Feature Documentary: Manolo: the Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards (Netflix). TV films include “Ancient Egypt: Life and Death in the Valley of the Kings,” BBC2, and BAFTA, Royal Television Society and AIB award-winning “Mummifying Alan,” Channel 4, Discovery, NGCI.
Dr Anne Irfan is Anne Irfan is Departmental Lecturer in Forced Migration at the Refugee Studies Centre. She holds a Dual Master’s Degree from Columbia University and the LSE and a PhD from the LSE, where she wrote her doctoral thesis on the historical role of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in the Palestinian refugee camps. She previously taught at the University of Sussex and the LSE, and is an Associate Fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy.
Anne’s research interests include global refugee history, UNRWA and Palestinian refugees, forced migration in the Middle East, the spatiality of refugee camps, and archival suppression. She is currently Co-Investigator on the British Academy-funded research project Borders, global governance and the refugee, examining the historical origins of the global refugee regime. In recent years, she has spoken at the UK Parliament in Westminster, and the UN Headquarters in New York and Geneva about the functions of the UNRWA regime and the exclusions facing Palestinian refugees from Syria.
Anne’s work has been published in Journal of Refugee Studies, Jerusalem Quarterly and Forced Migration Review, as well as media outlets The Washington Post and The Conversation. Her article ‘Is Jerusalem international or Palestinian? Rethinking UNGA Resolution 181’ was named co-winner of the 2017 Ibrahim Dakkak Award for Best Essay on Jerusalem. She is currently working on a book about UNRWA’s institutional history.
Professor Eugene Rogan is Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History at the University of Oxford and Director of the Middle East Centre at St Antony’s College. He is author of The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East, 1914-1920 (Penguin, 2015) which was named The Economist books of the year 2015 and The Sunday Times top ten bestseller; and The Arabs: A History (Penguin, 2009, 3rd edition 2018), which has been translated in 18 languages and was named one of the best books of 2009 by The Economist, The Financial Times, and The Atlantic Monthly. His earlier works include Frontiers of the State in the Late Ottoman Empire (Cambri
Debating the Law, Creating Gender - MEC Women's Rights Research Seminars
Professor Irene Schneider (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen), gives a talk for the MEC Women's Rights Research Seminars. Chaired by Professor Marilyn Booth (Magdalen College, Oxford) Irene Schneider is Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies. She received her PhD from Tuebingen University in 1989 and published her Dissertation under the title "Das Bild des Richters in der adab al-qadi-Literatur". In 1996 she finished her habilitation at the University of Cologne with a Study published under the title "Kinderverkauf und Schuldknechtschaft. Untersuchungen zur frühen Phase des islamischen Rechts" (English short version in the article: Freedom and Slavery in Early Islamic Time (1st /7th and 2nd /8th centuries), in: al-Qantara. 28. 2007, S. 353-382). In 2008 she turned down the offer of the Chair "Islamic Studies and Gender Studies" at the University of Zurich and in 2014 the offer of the Sharjah Chair of Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter/UK.
Abstract: Irene Schneider: "Debating the Law, Creating Gender“ My book strived to break new ground in mainly four research areas. 1. First, by observing legal iterations/debates (Benhabib 2003) in connection with the construction of gender roles in a Muslim state for a period of more than seven years (2012–2018), the question was asked why these iterations partly lead to “jurisgenerative” results, i.e. to “lawmaking” and partly failed to do so. The aim was to understand how these iterations developed in Palestinian society and “who belled the cat,” i.e., who steered these iterations successfully and how some discourses became dominant while others did not. Research so far had most often considered only short-term developments leading to reforms, ignoring long-term developments and discourses that ended without success. 2. Second, the research combined the analysis of the dominant discourses in these iterations between 2012 and 2018 – khulʿ in the first phase (2012–2014) and the question of how international law can be brought into harmony with national law in the second phase (2014–2018) – on the socio-legal level with an in-depth linguistic analysis based on Koselleck’s Begriffsgeschichte and the approach of translating from the “global” to the “local.” This linguistic analysis proved essential in understanding the shifts in these iterations as well as the social power struggle behind these shifts. 3. Third, the concentration on university teaching as part of iterations, especially when combined with an analysis of the textbook and the actual teaching process has revealed a deeper understanding of intellectual discourses in Palestine in a section of the public sphere, i.e., the universities, which has been ignored so far. It is still a surprisingly underresearched area taking into consideration that it is in universities that the future elite – in this case future lawyers, judges, and scholars – are trained. The question, whether they are well-enough equipped with the existing education to take up the task of harmonizing international law with national law based on Islamic legal terminology must be seriously asked. 4. Fourth, because of the political situation especially since 2007, there has been more research on the West Bank than on Gaza and research most often concentrated on one area or the other but was not combined and compared as is done in this book. Especially the research focus on Gaza lead to surprising results in comparison with West Bank iterations.
Ashmolean Museum - Middle East Centre: Owning the Past: A troubled century of Anglo-Iraqi relations
A webinar that explores the complex history binding Iraq and the U.K. from the First World War through the mandate and creation of the Hashemite monarchy, and Britain’s role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and its aftermath. With Eugene Rogan, Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History, University of Oxford, and author of The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East, 1914-1920
Dina Rizk Khoury, Professor of History and International Affairs at George Washington University and author of Iraq in Wartime: Soldiering, Martyrdom and Remembrance.
And Charles Tripp, Professor Emeritus of Politics with reference to the Middle East and North Africa, SOAS, University of London, and author of A History of Iraq. Introduced by Dr Myfanwy Lloyd (Guest Curator, Ashmolean Museum)