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The Clash of Empires: World War I and the Middle East

University of Cambridge Centre for the Study of the International Relations of the Middle East and North Africa (CIRMENA), University of Utah and Turkish Historical Society
When Jun 13, 2014 09:10 AM to
Jun 14, 2014 05:10 PM
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To mark this hundredth anniversary of WWI, a two-day conference to be held at the University of Cambridge, will examine the clash between Great Britain and the Ottoman Empire, and its related impact on the social and political causes of the Ottoman collapse. The conference will examine the immediate and long-term implications of the processes of imperial dissolution through a set of theoretically guided and empirically based questions. The goal of the conference is to bring together experts and scholars from different disciplines to exchange theoretical and empirical insights, as well as to provide an academic platform for fruitful discussion on the demise of the Ottoman Empire and the birth of the nation-state system in the Middle East.

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The conference organizing committee is as much interested in the causes of WWI as in its results and implications for the Middle East region. Discussions of the pre-War balance of power, escalation of tensions in Europe, and the Ottoman response to the outbreak of the conflicts will be encouraged, as will specific studies on different fronts in the eastern theatre, such as the Gallipoli and Suez campaigns. The conference will address questions on the following themes:

  • To what extent were the political tensions between the British and Ottoman empires inevitable? How did Orientalism and Islamophobia play a role in shaping British public opinion throughout the nineteenth century and on the eve of WWI? How did ethno-religious identities shape the perceptions of policies and institutions? 
  • How did domestic politics affect foreign policy considerations in Great Britain? What was the balance between national economic interests and personal ideological leanings among British decision makers? How did Great Britain's evolving national identity in the Victorian, and later, Edwardian, periods affect its imperial aspirations? 
  • How did the Ottoman government perceive the growing animosity in Great Britain leading up to WWI? What diplomatic measures were taken to avoid the clash between the two empires? How did the Ottomans view Great Britain in comparison to the other major powers of the time?    
  • What patterns of imperial disintegration, if any, might explain the collapse of the Ottoman Empire? How can one define the interplay between foreign power, nationalist rebellion, and weakened state in the last days of the Ottoman Empire? How does this triangle relate to modern-day cases of failing states?
  • How did WWI impact the Middle East? How did the war transform the region's social, political, and economic life? What considerations and options were disregarded or underestimated following the War? 
  • What were the perspectives of popular nationalisms and confessional identities in the progression of WWI? How did the war transform Islamic, Arab and sub-national identities? How did the local press convey these processes of identity formation? 
  • How did WWI change British policy toward the region? What characterizes the alliances that were formed between the major powers and local forces? To what extent did the War bring about the exploitation of ethnic, confessional, and tribal identities? 
  • How is the legacy of the Ottoman Empire remembered and utilized in today’s Middle East? How has the collapse affected perceptions of Islamic rule? How have perceptions of the Ottoman Empire changed over the years? 
  • What is the role of nationalist teleological approaches in writing the histories of the late imperial settings? How is the writing of history affected by the vantage point of modern nation-states that emerged after the collapse of imperial orders—that is, in anticipation of the birth of nation-state structures? How has post-colonialism affected the study of WWI history? 

 

The Conference to be held at Cambridge University will provide a stimulating venue for senior and junior scholars to present the most recent and cutting-edge research on the above themes. 

Organizers:

Dr. Roxane Farmanfarmaian (CIRMENA, University of Cambridge)

Dr. Hakan Yavuz (University of Utah)

For further information please contact Élise Lapaire (el402@cam.ac.uk)

 

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