Panel 3J

Movement and Interactions in the Modern Imperial History of the Middle East

16.15 – 18.15
Chair: Erik Freas, City University of New York

The Selective Attribution of Sovereignty as a Tool of Empire – The Case of the Trucial States

Niklas Haller, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter

The significance of imperialism for the movement of political ideas between the West and the Middle East in the past two centuries cannot be overstated, the imposition of a Western concept of political sovereignty being a prime example. The imperial encounter put European powers in a position to impose their understanding of sovereignty and, more importantly, to determine which non-European polities were acknowledged as sovereign in the Western sense, and which were denied that privileged position.  Building on archival sources from the India Office Records and the British National Archives, this paper will show how this position was used by Britain during its imperial presence in the Lower Gulf 1820-1971. It will argue that the ascription of sovereignty was an important tool in the arsenal of empire in the pursuit of Britain’s interests of political tranquillity, continued hegemony and limited financial and military involvement in the Trucial States.  The paper will demonstrate how the Trucial System allowed Britain to grant and deny external recognition of sovereignty, and how this served British policy objectives, both in terms of keeping the region under its control through coastal rulers as well as in influencing dynastic succession. It will show that the effectiveness of this tool of empire derived from the fact that external recognition was highly coveted locally, as it strengthened a ruler’s position and played a major role in the development of internal sovereignty.

Patients, Psychiatrists, and Psychiatric Practices on the Move in British Mandate Palestine

Chris Wilson, University of Cambridge (Faculty of History)

The history of psychiatry in British Mandate Palestine is already imbricated in a story of migration in the existing scholarship. But that story of migration is a particular one, focussed on German Jewish psychiatrists arriving in Palestine from the 1930s. This paper examines the importance of other kinds of movement in the history of psychiatry under the Mandate. It begins by tracing the movements of both patients and psychiatrists between Palestine, on the one hand, and mental institutions at Beirut and Cairo, on the other. While these cross-border movements were often initiated by the Mandate, as it sought to import experts from more established mental institutions in the region, the movements of patients were less straightforwardly beneficial: even as they relieved overcrowding in Palestinian institutions, they often also resulted in the Mandate taking on the role of debt-collector on behalf of these ‘foreign’ institutions. As well as tracing the movement of people, this paper seeks also to locate Palestine within wider circuits of psychiatric knowledge and practice. While the Mandate often looked elsewhere in the region and the British empire for useful models from which to draw in Palestine, the non-movement of some of these ideas and practices is just as striking a feature of this history. If this paper thus argues for the importance of wider regional and imperial connections in any treatment of the history of psychiatry in Mandate Palestine, it also seeks to highlight the ‘lumpiness’ – to borrow Frederick Cooper’s term – of this connectedness.

Illicit Migrants, Imperial Subjects; Mobility and Resistance in fin-de-siècle Beirut

Hatice Ayse Polat, University of Cambridge

In the few remaining immigration records of the port of Beirut, one finds the pastoral nomads seeking to escape forced settlement, the Muslim youth evading mandatory conscription, along with the religious minorities escaping state encroachment. They are all but scattered among consular correspondence, police and customs reports regarding the migration crisis of 1890s, which suspected, if not indicated, that hundreds of illicit migrants – which mostly comprised the early Armenian and Maronite diaspora – sought an exit from their “duties” and “liabilities” as Ottoman Subjects.  I intend to demonstrate how ceaseless waves of migration had engendered new labour regimes from within the port city of Beirut, where both port workers and people smugglers emerged as gatekeepers, ensuring the circulation of global capital and migrant labour in the colonial Mediterranean. The increasing radicalisation of workers voicing their economic and political demands throughout the fin de siècle period thus went hand in hand with the booming business in migration, as more and more Imperial Subjects took the way out paved by smugglers and traffickers.  I would like to make two arguments based on the Ottoman and British archives. First, I would like to demonstrate the connections and historical entanglements between the Armenian and Maronite diasporas, to argue that the early formation of these global communities were contingent on changing regimes of labour and migration. Secondly, I would like to juxtapose the radicalisation of port workers to criminalisation of illicit migration, as conjunctures within which these subjects resisted and exerted their collective agency.

Building the Armature: Assembling the MENA’s Inter-City Infrastructure

Bruce Stanley, Richmond University

The region’s conurbations are interconnected by a vast network of local and trans-local infrastructures, hardware that carries flows of energy, information, transport, water and communication among cities and across state boundaries to other cities. Today’s contemporary armature was assembled bit by bit, grid by grid, across the ‘short 20th century’ through the intentionality of a range of actors and guardians, including the ‘imperial imperative’ operating at various scales; for example, the Mediterranean-Niger Railway project began in 1941 to link French Mediterranean ports with Niamey. Post decolonization and the rise of pan-Arab integration initiatives, cities became increasingly interconnected by electricity and power grids; the Maghreb regional interconnection, for example, was initiated in the 1950s. The so-called ‘Tapline’ (Trans-Arabian Pipeline) was the largest oil pipeline in the world in the early 1950s, connecting Ad-Dammam to Sidon. The ‘Taurus Express’ started running from Istanbul to Baghdad in 1940. The King Fahd Causeway, first agreed in 1965, links al-Khobar to Manama. The Peace Water Pipeline proposal of 1986 would have connected Adana to Aleppo, Hama, Damascus, Amman and Jerusalem with Doha and Mecca. Sadat’s 1979 announcement of the ‘Peace Canal’ envisioned Nile water feeding agriculture in the Naqab. This chapter applies assemblage thinking to understand this process of constructing these sociomaterial infrastructures between 1921 and 1990, how such interurban projects provided an armature around which MENA political and economic dynamics were enacted, and their implications for MENA city networks into the contemporary era.