September 3, 2013
"The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World" (Greg Grandin, NYU)
One morning in 1805, off a remote island in the South Pacific, Captain Amasa Delano, a New England seal hunter, climbed aboard a distressed Spanish ship carrying scores of West Africans he thought were slaves. They weren’t. Having earlier seized control of the vessel and slaughtered most of the crew, they were staging an elaborate ruse, acting as if they were humble servants. When Delano, an idealistic, anti-slavery republican, finally realized the deception, he responded with explosive violence.
Drawing on research on four continents, the talk explores the multiple forces that culminated in this extraordinary event — an event that already inspired Herman Melville’s masterpiece Benito Cereno. Through the lens of the dramatic happenings of that day, the talk will map a new transnational history of freedom and slavery in the Americas, capturing the clash of peoples, economies, and faiths that was the New World in the early 1800s.
Greg Grandin is the author of Fordlandia, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, as well as Empire's Workshop and The Blood of Guatemala. A professor of history at New York University and a recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the New York Public Library's Cullman Center, Grandin has served on the UN Truth Commission investigating the Guatemalan Civil War and has written for the Los Angeles Times, The Nation, New Statesman, and The New York Times.
September 17, 2013
"Polio: A Look Back at America’s Most Successful Public Health Campaign" (David Oshinsky, NYU/UT Austin)
This talk explores the gripping story of the polio terror and of the intense effort to find a cure, from the March of Dimes to the discovery of the Salk and Sabin vaccines--and beyond. It offers portrait of America in the early 1950s, using the widespread panic over polio to shed light on national obsessions and fears. Drawing on newly available papers of Jonas Salk, Albert Sabin and other key players, it paints a portrait of the race for the cure, weaving a dramatic tale centered on the furious rivalry between Salk and Sabin.
As backdrop to these competitive research endeavors, the talk will also explore the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, which was founded in the 1930s by FDR and Basil O'Connor. The National Foundation revolutionized fundraising and the perception of disease in America, using "poster children" and the famous March of Dimes to raise hundreds of millions of dollars from a vast army of contributors (instead of a few well-heeled benefactors), creating the largest research and rehabilitation network in the history of medicine.
David Oshinsky directs the Division of Medical Humanities at the NYU School of Medicine. His books include A Conspiracy So Immense: The World of Joe McCarthy, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; Worse Than Slavery, which also was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award for its distinguished contribution to human rights; and Polio: An American Story, which won the Pulitzer Prize in History among other awards and influenced Bill Gates to make polio eradication the top priority of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Professor Oshinsky’s reviews and essays appear regularly in The New York Times and other international publications.
October 1, 2013
"An Explosion of the Political: Revisiting the Meerut Conspiracy Case in Colonial India" (Manu Goswami, NYU)
The talk is based on a larger project on colonial internationalisms in the interwar era. It centers on the stakes and significance of an infamous legal trial in late colonial India, the Meerut Conspiracy Case, brought against Indian and British trade-union leaders, communists, socialists, and workers in the late-1920s and early 1930s. The trial stands out not only for its overt procedural violations of a much heralded colonial liberal order. It significance lie not only in the fact that it was the first criminal trial that prosecuted British and Indian subjects as juridically equal, abrogating a long-standing 'rule of colonial difference'. It was the first juridical reckoning by British imperial authorities with communism as an idea and movement, anticipating later cold-war era anti-communist discourse. By treating the depositions as an example and source of an intellectual history in extremis, the talk emphasizes the novelty and heterogeneity of early communism.
Manu Goswami is an Associate Professor of History at NYU-NY. She is the author of Producing India: From Colonial Economy to National Space (University of Chicago Press, 2004). She has authored articles on historical method, nationalism and empire, political economy and history of economic thought in the American Historical Review, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Journal of Historical Sociology, Political Power and Social Theory among others. She is an editor of Critical Historical Studies (a new journal from the University of Chicago Press) and serves on the editorial board of Public Culture.
October 29, 2013
"Why is the UAE a Federation?" (Frauke Heard-Bey, Abu Dhabi)
Over centuries the role of religion prohibited the area’s integration into ‘Ibadhi Oman. Tribal allegiances at times promoted at other times inhibited the formation of a larger political unit on the territory of the modern UAE. The exploitation of geographically-conditioned diverse economic resources re-enforced the tribal differences. However, it was the nature of the engagement of the various coastal tribal chiefs with an outside power, the British in India, which laid the foundations for the UAE’s federal political system.
Frauke Heard-Bey received a Ph.D. from the Freie Universität Berlin in 1967 and followed her husband to the emerging oil-producing state of Abu Dhabi. She joined the Centre for Documentation and Research in 1969. Her research into the social, economic and constitutional history and current developments of the countries of the Gulf resulted in academic publications including: From Trucial States to United Arab Emirates, Dubai 2004; Die arabischen Golfstaaten im Zeichen der islamischen Revolution, Bonn, 1983; From Tribe to State, Milano, 2008.
Watch a video of the talk
Report, Salaam: The NYUAD Blog (November 12, 2013)
November 19, 2013
"Africa in the History of the Indian Ocean World" (Carla Bocchetti, Institute of Africa Studies, Kenya)
Africa has been a neglected subject in the recent revival of the history of the Indian Ocean. However, its port cities have played a major role both as maritime routes and in the imaginery and representation of space, as it is attested in early modern maps.
This presentation will deal with Africa in the cartographic imagination of the early modern period and will refer also to theoretical aspects of the role of Africa in global history.
December 3, 2013
“Terror, Law, and the Conquest of Western Germany during the French Revolutionary Wars" (Edward Kolla, School of Foreign Service in Qatar, Georgetown University)
The period 1793-94 saw the French Revolution at its most radical, and the Revolutionary Wars at their most violent. French officials developed a new justification for territorial conquest by which France could claim “just indemnities” for its efforts fighting tyranny and to improve its strategic position as the defender of the rights of man.
Although many accused France of chauvinistic expansion when it annexed the left bank of the Rhine, this was therefore anything but a return the ancien régime legal status quo. It was, rather, a unique synthesis in international law of a devotion to popular government, republican ideology, and France's geostrategic interests.
Edward Kolla is an Assistant Professor at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service in Qatar. He specializes in European political, diplomatic, cultural, and legal history. He is currently preparing a book manuscript on the impact and effect of the French Revolution on international law, specifically tracing the emergence of popular sovereignty as a justification for claims to territory.
December 15, 2013
"Civilizations, Empires and World Order during the Long 19th Century, 1750-1924: A Peculiar Muslim Experience?" (Cemil Aydin, UNC)
The political experiences of many Muslims societies during the long 19th century societies do not reflect any simple grand narrative of transition from the age of empires to a period of nationalism. Muslim intellectuals were critical of European imperial hegemony but they were not necessarily against the idea of an empire. It was not ethnic nationalism, but transnational Islamic modernism and pro-Ottoman discourses that seemed dominant in late 19th century Muslim intellectual networks.
Moreover, the aftermath of WWI did not symbolize a turning point for decolonization, but attempts at further colonization of Muslim societies and the shock of the abolishment of caliphate. Modern Muslim thought does not fit into Arnold Toynbee’s civilizational world history narratives (or Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilization thesis) either.
This seminar talk suggest that a new world history methodology can help us overcome the contradictions in the national, imperial and civilizational approaches to the long 19th century political history of Muslim societies by historicizing and contextualizing the politics of the long 19th century global “Muslim world” identity.
Cemil Aydin is teaching courses on international history and global history at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He studied at Boğaziçi University, İstanbul University, and the University of Tokyo before receiving his Ph.D. degree in History and Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University in 2002.
Aydin’s publications include his book on the Politics of Anti-Westernism in Asia: Visions of World Order in Pan-Islamic and Pan-Asian Thought (Columbia University Press, 2007)), a co-edited special volume on “Critiques of the ‘West’ in Iran, Turkey and Japan” in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 26:3 (Fall 2006), and “Globalizing the Intellectual History of the Idea of the ‘Muslim World,’” in Global Intellectual History, ed. Samuel Moyn and Andrew Sartori) (Columbia University Press, 2013), pp: 159-186.
He is currently working on a book manuscript on the intellectual history of the idea of the Muslim World (forthcoming, Harvard University Press).
February 4, 2014
"'Arab' Communists, Stalinist Subjects: Student Life in Moscow, 1922-33" (Masha Kirasirova, NYUAD)
This talk will consider what Arabic-language autobiographies, personal letters, and official complaints by Middle Eastern student in the Communist University of the Toilers of the East (KUTV) can tell us about their experiences inside this unique interwar Comintern bureaucracy. Drawing on archival documents of the KUTV Arabic Section and the students’ personal files, it will show how students positioned themselves as temporary “Stalinist subjects,” as “foreigners,” and as “Easterners” to achieve particular political and personal goals.
The talk will also consider cases of students’ extreme deviations from party discipline in order to pursue political objectives or interests that often lay outside Soviet territorial and political boundaries. These examples of radical unbelief and wholesale rejections of the regime and its universal precepts offer a useful starting point for understanding the limits of belonging as defined by various actors in the Moscow-coordinated international communist project.
Masha Kirasirova is a Faculty Fellow at NYUAD. She has recently defended her PhD in the Departments of History and Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies in NYU-NY. She is the author of "Sons of Muslims' in Moscow: Soviet Central Asian Mediators to the Foreign East, 1955–1962," in: Ab Imperio 4 (2011): 106-32.
February 11, 2014
"Positionality and Perspective: Promises and Challenges of Global History," (Sebastian Conrad, FU Berlin)
This talk will situate the current global history boom historiographically and introduce some of the crucial characteristics of a global history approach by discussing a number of recent examples. It will particularly focus on the way in which global history moves our understanding of the past beyond the limitations connected with the nineteenth-century birth of the discipline. It will also focus on some of the critiques of global history perspectives as well as some of the challenges global historians face.
Sebastian Conrad is Professor of Modern History at the Freie Universität Berlin. His publications include: German Colonialism: A Short History (Cambridge University Press, 2012); Globalisation and the Nation in Imperial Germany (Cambridge University Press, 2010); The Quest for the Lost Nation: Writing History in Germany and Japan in the American Century (California University Press, 2010).
His introduction into the field of global history (Globalgeschichte: Eine Einführung, Beck) has appeared in German in 2013.
March 2, 2014
"To the Heart of Europe: War, Occupation, and the Americanist Moment" (George Blaustein, University of Amsterdam)
After World War II, encounters with European ruin led writers and intellectuals on both sides of the Atlantic to understand America in new ways. This lecture is about that transformative moment, as wartime imperatives gave way to postwar reconstruction, and the United States assumed the mantle of victor as well as cultural redeemer.
In this context, American Studies abroad has a surprising history, intertwined with the restoration or invention of a European community. This is illustrated most dramatically at the the Salzburg Seminar in American Civilization, founded in 1947 with the very tenuous approval of American occupation authorities.
In a bomb-damaged baroque castle, scholars, novelists and poets carried the American word abroad, while displaced persons, former Nazis and budding communists met on the supposedly neutral ground of American culture. This institution leads us to reconsider cultural diplomacy in the early Cold War, and to a more cosmopolitan history of “American exceptionalism.”
George Blaustein is assistant professor of American Studies and history at the University of Amsterdam. He is completing a book entitled To the Heart of Europe: War, Occupation, American Studies (forthcoming with Oxford UP).
The event is co-sponsored by the NYUAD Literature Program.
March 4, 2014
"Jihad or Ijtihad: Religious Orthodoxy and Modern Science in Contemporary Islam," (S. Irfan Habib, National University of Educational Planning and Education, New Delhi)
The main focus of this lecture revolves around questioning the idea of "Islamic science" as proposed by several scholars in Euro-American universities and elsewhere. There is a modest attempt to question the possibility of Islamic science as a distinct epistemological category, which is being pushed by some Islamic scholars since the late seventies. I do not see Islamic science and modern science as binaries.
Modern science has a cross-civilizational character and its Eurocentricity needs to be questioned and exposed. However, it cannot be replaced by another centrism, being proposed by the Islamists, as it will be equally undemocratic.
I use the modernist Muslim reformers of the 19th century India and their pluralist perspective to question the essentialist and myopic interpretations of some of the present day Islamic interlocutors. The expressions Jihad (to struggle) and Ijtihad (independent thinking or use of reason) are not just provocatively used in the title, they are central to the arguments put forth here. Both jihad and ijtihad had been the core of Islam, unfortunately the former is the most misinterpreted and misunderstood while the latter is completely forgotten.
S Irfan Habib has worked in the area of history of science as well as political history. After teaching history for a few years, he joined the National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies, New Delhi.
He spent more than thirty years looking at the intellectual and institutional foundations of modern science and technology during the colonial phase in India. Within this framework, he began investigating the role of dissemination of modern science through the local Indian languages, and how a language like Urdu, could transform itself from a language of poetry to a language skilled in communicating modern science. He later moved to the questions of interface between local Indian knowledge traditions and modern knowledge which came along with colonization.
Besides a large number of papers, he has also edited and authored several books including Situating the History of Science: Dialogues with Joseph Needham and Social History of Social History of Science in Colonial India (both edited with D Raina). He has also co-authored Domesticating Modern Science in Colonial India. His book To Make the Deaf Hear: Ideology and Programme of Bhagat Singh and his Comrades, has been translated into several Indian languages like Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam and Bengali.
His latest book is Jihad or Ijtihad: Religious Orthodoxy and Modern Science in Contemporary Islam. He has also coordinated the South and South East Asian section of history of science in UNESCO’s prestigious History of Humanity series. At present he holds Maulana Azad Chair at the National University of Educational Planning and Administration, New Delhi.
Habib has been a Fulbright scholar and a visiting professor at several universities like Humboldt University Berlin, University of Cambridge, State University of New York, Maison des Sciences de l'Homme, Paris, MIT, Cambridge, and others.
March 11, 2014
"Big Data in History: Creating a World-Historical Archive" (Patrick Manning, University of Pittsburgh)
In order to make plans for the future of human society at the global level, it is necessary to have coherent information on the global past of human society. To meet this need, the Collaborative for Historical Information and Analysis (CHIA) has been at work since 2011 on creating a world-historical Archive, addressing social, cultural, health, and climate issues worldwide for the past 400 years.
In three major points, this presentation demonstrates the type of world-historical information the Archive will yield; it describes the work taking place to construct the Archive; and it invites contributions of data and analysis from the Middle East region.
Patrick Manning is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of World History at the University of Pittsburgh. He is director of the World History Center, located in the Department of History and affiliated with the Global Studies Program and the University Center of International Studies. Trained as a specialist in the economic history of Africa, he has become a specialist in world history overall.
His research has focused on demographic history (African slave trade), social and cultural history of francophone Africa, global migration, African diaspora as a dimension of global history, and an overview of the field of world history. He was educated at the California Institute of Technology (BS in Chemistry, 1963) and the University of Wisconsin - Madison (MS in History and Economics, PhD in History 1969).
Manning now directs the Collaborative for Historical Information and Analysis (CHIA), for work on creating a world-historical data resource. He is also president of the World History Network, Inc., a nonprofit corporation fostering
research and international exchange in
His current research
centers on creating a global historical
data resource, African populations 1650-1950, global social movements 1989-1992, and on an interdisciplinary history of early humanity in collaboration with Christopher Ehret. Manning served as Vice President of the Teaching Division of the American Historical Association from 2004-2006 as well.
April 8, 2014
"Reflections on 1591 and 2013 in Songhay and Mali" (Lansine Kaba, Carnegie Mellon University, Qatar)
The battle of Tondibi fought on the 12th of April 1591, and the French jet-and helicopter gunship intervention initiated on the 11th of January 2013 in Bamako, Mali, bespeak some of the tragedy that the land known in African Islamic historiography as the Western Sudan witnessed in its pre-colonial and post-colonial history. They were true fatidic events.
The Muslim Askiya dynasty of Gao that ruled the Songhay Empire, situated in the Middle Niger River valley and controlling a significant part of the Sahel and the Sahara between 1464 and 1591, precipitously collapsed under the blows received from the fire arms-equipped invading forces dispatched from Morocco by the Sultan Mulay Ahmed al-Mansur to boost his kingdom’s position in the gold trade (see L. Kaba, “Archers, Musketeers and Mosquitoes,” Journal of African History, 22, 4, 1981; “The Pen, the Sword and the Crown,” JAH, 1984).
In January 2013, an analogous blow was struck against the democratically-elected regime of Mali, when it was hit first by an invasion of its northern region by Touareg separatists and Arab Islamist insurgents, and then by a junior officers-led coup orchestrated in protest against the government’ s inaction.
The Sahel zone has turned into a volatile region in which Islamic fundamentalism, Touareg and Black African nationalisms compete for power. With the crisis that shook in 2011 the authoritarian North African regimes, Muammar Qaddafi–recruited Touareg fighters returned home to northern Mali, flush with resources and political determination. They launched a rebellion for the liberation of their region from black African rule.
While secularist, the insurgents entered in alliance of convenience –that was short lived-- with the militant mostly Algerian Islamist groups long active in Mali’s north. Together they set on introducing the Sharia law upon their conquest of Mali’s northern garrisons and cities, including the old center of Islamic learning and trade, Timbuktu. These events triggered the coup in Bamako. A few weeks later, the jihadists advanced toward the south, thereby threatening the whole region and the Western Mediterranean with a militant Islamic state, probably a new kind of Afghanistan, according to some reporters.
France President François Hollande decided to intervene against the Islamists, while in New York the international community was mulling an appropriate answer to the threat. French soldiers and President Hollande received a jubilant welcome in Timbuktu and other Malian cities, with the Tricolor hovering over the mosques. Does the intervention herald a new form of colonialism or a new resolve to fight Jihadism?
Still unsettled, the matter invites historians to reconsider the long history of Islam in West Africa as well as the general issues of politics in the area, including nation building (and failing), ethnicity and terrorism, French-African relations and the current global politics. I will discuss the subject in the tradition of la longue durée that some recent works have inappropriately considered.
Lansiné Kaba, Distinguished Visiting Professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, has widely published in English and French on Islam in West Africa, French and British decolonization, and African post-colonial one-party states. His monograph, "The Wahhabiyya, Islamic Reform and Politics," (Northwestern University Press, 1974) was the co-winner of the 1975 Melville Herskovits Award for the outstanding book of the year given by the African Studies Association.
Kaba received the 1978 Distinguished Teacher Award at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, was President of the African Studies Association, 1998-2001, and Dean of the Honors College at the University of Illinois at Chicago, 1996-2004. He has authored numerous significant articles on the rise, efflorescence and fall of the Songhay Empire, with a major emphasis on its Islamic dimension and place in the 16th-century emerging global affairs.
His books, "Cheikh Mouhammad Chérif of Kankan," and "Islam and tolérance, une perspective africaine," published respectively in 2001 and 2010 by Présence Africaine in Paris, are part of his continuous research on Islam in West African societies.
April 15, 2014
"Rethinking the Boundaries of Indian Intellectual History: Poetry as Archive in the Work of Savarkar" (Janaki Bakhle, Columbia University)
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (1883-1966) was India’s most infamous revolutionary “terrorist,” dubbed an anarchist as a student by the British colonial police, a Hindu nationalist who penned the tract “Essentials of Hindutva” (1922). He is best known for his implication in the assassination of M.K. Gandhi.
Savarkar’s prose has been dissected for its fascist under and overtones, his political career has been examined as the foundation for “Hindu fundamentalism”, and of all the figures who populate the history of Indian nationalism he is by far the most hateful and therefore the one most reviled.
Yet, what remains to be examined is his most intellectually rigorous work of which he was most proud and with which he most identified, namely, his poetry. Difficult to understand because of the mixture of modern and archaic Marathi and Sanskrit that he used, it was the medium to which he turned to express the gamut of his emotional and political life. As such it is a crucial archive.
In his ballads we see the genre used to both teach the bare facts of history and awaken a slumbering masculine community into action. In this seminar, I will address how one might expand the boundaries of Indian intellectual history by taking seriously Savarkar’s poetry as the archive of a popular conception of history at a cusp moment at the turn of the 20th century.
Janaki Bakhle is Associate Professor of History at Columbia University, where she teaches South Asian history. Her first book was Two Men and Music: Nationalism, Colonialism and the Making of an Indian Classical Tradition (Oxford University Press, 2005), and she is now at work on Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, known as the chief ideologue of Hindu fundamentalism.
April 29, 2014
"Women’s Groups in East Germany – Knitting Groups, Feminists, Troublemakers?" (Susanne Kranz, Zayed University, Dubai)
This talk explores the autonomous women’s group Frauen für den Frieden (Women for Peace) that was founded in 1982 in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), a state that, in 1972, had officially declared gender equality as achieved, making all women’s groups redundant. It investigates the reasons behind the foundation of the group as well as its functioning and its rather quick decline.
One reason for the establishment of an autonomous women’s group was the ratification of a new military law that specified the draft of women into the military service in case of a national emergency. Opinions and views about ideology, religion and politics represented minor matters within the group yet they played a decisive role in the weakening of the group which was further facilitated by the infiltration of the organization by the Stasi.
The talk offers new insights into an important oppositional group challenging the state’s power that was established as a women’s organization without explicit women’s issues on their agenda.
Susanne Kranz is an Assistant Professor of History at Zayed University, Dubai.
May 13, 2014
"The Greek War of Independence and the Birth of the Clash of Civilizations Theory, 1821-1830" (Karine Walther, School of Foreign Service in Qatar, Georgetown University)
Despite his claims to originality, the logical underpinnings of Samuel Huntington’s theory of a "Clash of Civilizations" were embedded in the national identity of the United States as a young republic and played an influential role in shaping its relations with the wider world. This talk focuses on one specific moment in diplomatic history to illustrate the power of these “civilizational” designations in shaping American foreign policy discourse in the early nineteenth century: the American response to the Greek War for Independence.
Coming forty-five years after its own independence and twenty-five years after the Barbary Wars, Americans stood at rapt attention as they witnessed what they understood as a Christian nation fighting for democracy and freedom from its Muslim oppressors. Between 1821 and 1828, thousands of Americans, led by religious organizations, philhellenes, journalists, academics, and political leaders, came together to urge the US government to act on behalf of the Greeks.
Although intervention posed no pragmatic or economic advantages to the United States, many Americans nonetheless lobbied for official involvement and privately organized to aid the Greeks.The discourse that emerged around these efforts revealed the importance of ideological, religious and cultural motivations in shaping American attitudes towards foreign policy.
This talk demonstrates that the rhetoric of intervention brought together civilizational categories that merged religious identity, enlightenment thought, and modernity with the mythos of Ancient Greece as the birthplace of Western Enlightenment thought, echoing Huntington’s later arguments about a so-called “clash” between Islam and the West.
Karine Walther is an Assistant Professor of History at the School of Foreign Service in Qatar. She holds a PhD in history from Columbia University, a Maîtrise and Licence in sociology from the University of Paris VIII and a BA in American studies from the University of Texas, Austin. She is currently working on a manuscript entitled "Sacred Interests: Islam and U.S. Foreign Policy, 1821-1921," which focuses on how ideas about Islam influenced American foreign relations between the Greek War of Independence and the end of WWI.