The Mahmoud Darwish Professorship of Palestinian Studies is the first endowed chair of its kind in the United States. In this interview, Sherene Seikaly asks Beshara Doumani about the process of establishing this chair, its challenges and significance, and the state of Palestinian studies in the United States. The interview ends with some reflections on the global pandemic and the immense grief and hope of the Floyd Uprising in the United States.
Beshara Doumani is the Joukowsky Family Distinguished Professor of Modern Middle East History at Brown University. On July 1, 2020, he will become the inaugural holder of the Mahmoud Darwish Professorship of Palestinian Studies, the first endowed chair dedicated to this field of study. His research focuses on peoples, places, and time periods erased or marginalized by mainstream scholarship on the early modern and modern Middle East. He also writes on academic freedom and the Palestinian condition. His books include Rediscovering Palestine: Merchants and Peasants in Jabal Nablus, 1700-1900, and Family Life in the Ottoman Mediterranean: A Social History. Doumani established the Center for Middle East Studies at Brown University, and is the founding director of New Directions in Palestinian Studies at Brown University. He is the editor of a book series on Palestinian studies with the University of California Press, co-editor of the Jerusalem Quarterly, and a member of the editorial committee of the Journal of Palestine Studies. He led a team that produced a strategic plan for the establishment of the Palestinian museum, and received the Sawyer Seminar award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for his proposal, “Displacement and the Making of the Modern World: Histories, Ecologies, and Subjectivities.” Doumani joined Brown after fourteen years at the University of California, Berkeley, and eight years at the University of Pennsylvania. He also taught at Birziet University. Doumani was a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University; and the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton. He is currently working on a history of the Palestinians through the social life of stone.
Sherene Seikaly is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Seikaly is co-editor of the Journal of Palestine Studies, senior editor of Arab Studies Journal, co-founder and co-editor of Jadaliyya e-zine, and a policy member of Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network. Seikaly's Men of Capital: Scarcity and Economy in Mandate Palestine (Stanford University Press, 2016) explores how Palestinian capitalists and British colonial officials used economy to shape territory, nationalism, the home, and the body. It received the Middle East Political Economy Book Prize. Her forthcoming book titled From Baltimore to Beirut: On the Question of Palestine focuses on a Palestinian man who was at once a colonial officer and a colonized subject, an enslaver and a refugee. His trajectory from nineteenth century mobility across Baltimore and Sudan to twentieth century immobility in Lebanon places the question of Palestine in a global history of race, capital, slavery, and dispossession.