BRISMES Annual Lecture

The BRISMES Annual Lecture provides an opportunity for members and non-members to hear from a distinguished scholar or expert within the field of Middle Eastern Studies and is a major event in the BRISMES calendar. The event is free to attend and open to all.


Marking the 20-year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, BRISMES invites members and non-members to attend the 2023 BRISMES Annual Lecture Re-membering Iraq: On the Wounds of War by Sinan Antoon

Date: Thursday, 16 November 2023

Time: 17:30-19:00 GMT

Location: Online

Annual Lecture

Sinan Antoon is a poet, novelist, scholar, and translator. He was born in Baghdad, Iraq and left after the 1991 Gulf War. He earned a doctorate in Arabic literature at Harvard. He has published three collections of poetry and five novels. Antoon’s translation of Mahmoud Darwish’s last prose book, In the Presence of Absence, won the 2012 American Literary Translators’ Award. His scholarly works include The Poetics of the Obscene in Pre-Modern Arabic Poetry: Ibn al-Hajjaj and Sukhf and articles on Arabic poetry and modern Iraqi culture and politics. His essays have appeared in The Guardian, Washington Post, The Nation, The New York Times, and many pan-Arab newspapers and journals. He is co-founder and co-editor at Antoon is associate professor of Arabic Literature at New York University.


Nadje Al-Ali

Feminist Dilemmas and Ambivalences: Gendered and queer perspectives on the Middle East


Mohsen Kadivar

Transformation of ‘Islamic Republic’ to ‘Islamic State of Iran’


Ziba Mir-Hosseini

Recovering Gender Equality in Islam: Conversations with Reformist Thinkers


Laleh Khalili

The Corporeal Life of Commerce at Sea

In this lecture, Professor Laleh Khalili will reflect on the lives and bodies of modern seafarers in the western Indian Ocean. Drawing on ethnography aboard container ships steaming Arab seas, the archives of various missions to seafarers serving Arabian Peninsula ports, local and global union cases on their behalf, and other literary and archival documents in Arabic and English, she will consider the quotidian life of labour, tedium, longing, and camaraderie aboard ships today. Perhaps most important, she will show that to think about commerce at sea, we have to locate the Arab world’s economy in a global network of capital accumulation, and to seek in the macropolitical sweep of history the human-sized, the everyday, the embodied experience, and the affective lives of the people who make such commerce possible.


Khaled Fahmy

Shari'a, dissection and justice in Modern Egypt

This lecture describes the process of the introduction of modern medicine in early nineteenth-century Egypt. It describes how dissection was instituted as a central practice in the Qasr al-'Aini School of Medicine, Egypt's first institution of modern medicine founded in 1827. It charts how different segments of Egyptian society understood and reacted to this disturbing practice. It also follows the increasing reliance of a budding legal system on autopsies as a prime means to establish legal proof in criminal cases. As such, the lecture suggests how forensic medicine can be a lens through which we can study the implementation of shari'a in a modern state context.

2017 (joint lecture with BRAIS)

Oliver Roy

Speaking of jihad, what do we mean by ‘religious radicalisation’?


Hisham Matar

After the Revolutions: Arab Memory and Bewilderment

In this lecture, prize-winning Libyan novelist Hisham Matar will offer a literary response to the present, reflecting on the seismic shifts experienced in the Arab region. He will be looking back, as well as casting forward towards shared yearnings for the future, the hopes and fears it engenders, and what this might reveal about the current imagination. This year's Annual Lecture is held in collaboration with the London Middle East Institute at SOAS. 


Eugene Rogan

Beirut on the Stage: The Ottoman Great War in Four Acts

On two consecutive nights in 1919, the residents of Beirut relived the tragedy of the Great War in melodrama. Two local theatre troupes, the Young Syria Company and the National Revival Drama Company, combined forces to stage a new play by the Maronite author Georges Mourad entitled “Beirut on the Stage, or Four Years of the War.” In a preface to the printed version of the play, published months after it was first staged, Mourad invited the reader to return with him “to past times whose consequences are with us still,” to “turn together the bloody pages of a painful history that we might learn lessons from what has past.” The play captured what Mourad claimed were “the ideas of the witnesses of that painful war that played out on the stage of Syria.” At a century’s remove, it is impossible to know why the war-shocked residents of Beirut would have sought to relive their experiences in dramatic form so soon after the war’s end. Yet it serves as a wonderful vehicle for the social historian to explore issues of war, trauma, and memory captured in literary expression in the immediate aftermath of the First World War.


Jack Straw

The Future of British Foreign Policy in the Middle East

Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw draws on his experience and Britain's colonial legacy to argue that while the United Kingdom needs to recognise the effects of past policy and how it is perceived in the Middle East, the UK should not be a prisoner of its legacies from the past. In this annual address to the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies (BRISMES) he argues that knowledge should be used to create in-depth understanding that in turn should be built on to create more enduring foreign policy goals. He puts forward a coherent case for a more positive and comprehensive relationship with Iran and Turkey as potential allies in building more stable and yet also more democratic and accountable governments throughout the Middle East. Jack Straw argues that the UK is better placed than many to learn from past mistakes and create more robust strategic goals for the future.


Sami Zubaida

The Quest for Cultural Authenticity and the Politics of Identity

What constitutes authenticity in different spheres of culture is contested between political and religious groups and ideologies. Discourses of difference between Muslim/national cultures and ‘the West’, and the resistance to perceived cultural invasion have featured prominently in these contests, over the generations from the inception of modernity to the present, and accelerated globalisation. These themes are explored in relation to religion, national culture, sexuality, music and food.


Haleh Afshar

Islam and the Politics of Resistance: The Case of Women in Iran.

Prominent Muslim feminist and peer Haleh Afshar will speak on the situation facing Iranian women in their country today. The annual BRISMES Award for Services to Middle Eastern Studies will be presented to Baroness Afshar at this event.

2011 (Joint lecture with CASAW)

Baghat Kourani

Middle East Exceptionalism: Ended or Dented?


Patrick Seale

America’s War Against Islam


Roger Owen

British and French Military Intelligence in Syria and Palestine, 1914-18. Myths and Reality

Lecture to be followed by the presentation of the BRISMES Award for Services to Middle Eastern Studies which this year goes to Professor Roger Owen.


Yasir Suleiman

Arabic and I


Clive Holes

From Suez to Iraq via Jimmy and Diga: Arabic Popular Poetry as a Form of Free Speech

2007 (Special summer lecture)

Ruud Peters

Shari’a Criminal Law and Human Rights: Can They Be Reconciled?


Carole Hillenbrand

Images of Saladin, Past and Present


Charles Tripp

Show Trials in Iraq: Theatres of Power


Philip Robins

Top Hat and Crescent: Dualism Reconciled in Turkey’s Foreign Relations


Roger Owen

Biography and Empire: Lord Cromer (1841-1917) Then and Now


Tony Allan

Water, Food and Trade in the Middle East: Virtual Water Eliminates Water Wars?


James Craig

A Life with the Arabs

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