The Middle East Studies Pedagogy Initiative (MESPI) regularly presents curated selections of articles concerning the Middle East and North Africa as well as current topics of interest.
This is the first installment of three bouquets of articles on the topic of “race” in academic journal articles published from 1979 through 2019 in Middle East studies and related fields. It identifies articles focusing on some aspect of “Race in the Middle East and North Africa.” This bouquet will be followed by one on “Race and the Middle East in the United States” and another on “Palestine, Israel, and Race.” All included articles were identified through the use of MESPI’s Peer-Reviewed Articles database and the Knowledge Production Project (KPP), which make use of a catalogue of over one-hundred journals either specializing in Middle East and/or North Africa studies or with a disciplinary focus but also regularly feature research on the region and parts therein.
The purpose of these bouquets is two-fold. First, to identify those articles dealing with race as a research topic and analytic category in peer-reviewed articles published in journals focused on the Middle East or disciplinary journals that regulary feature content on the region. We recognize this does not include other journals that feature content on or relevant to race in/and Middle East and North Africa studies. This in turn leads to the second purpose of these bouquets, which is to recognize the uneven terrain of this topic and its relative marginalization thus far in the mainstay of Middle East and North Africa studies. We hope to provide a separate bouquet identifying relavent peer-reviewed articles that were, so to speak, published on the margins of the field, yet are precisely the types of works scholars of the field need to better engage with, helpo circulate, and encourage publication in the core journals of the field. If you have recommendations of such articles or journals to identify and look through, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In our survey of articles for “Race in the Middle East and North Africa,” not counting those included in “Race and the Middle East in the United States” and “Palestine, Israel, and Race,” we note that the majority of the articles focused on Egypt (9), Sudan (7), Turkey (8), Iran (5), and the Maghreb (4), with a few additional articles that focused on the Levant and Saudi Arabia. Notably absent from the over one-hundred journals searched are articles analyzing race in Arab Gulf states such as the UAE. Reflective of how marginalized and/or recent the use of "race" as an analytic category is in Middle East and North Africa studies, this installament has a total of forty articles for the forty-year period between 1979 and 2019.
Race in Egypt:
Sound and Desire: Race, Gender, and Insult in Egypt's First Talkie
By: Ifdal Elsaket
Published in International Journal of Middle East Studies 51, no. 2 (2019)
Abstract: This article explores the coloniality of gender, sexuality, and desire, and the links between nationalist and commercial imperatives, in the making of Egypt's first sound film, or talkie, in 1932. Through an analysis of the politics, economy, and memory of Yusuf Wahbi's film Awlad al-Dhawat (Sons of the Aristocrats), it shows how the interplay between new sound technologies, the global film trade, and nationalist and racialized narratives of gender and resistance shaped the contours of ideal femininity and masculinity during the interwar period in Egypt. The article also shows how the film's representations formed at the intersection between the filmmakers’ attempts to challenge colonial stereotyping and their efforts to capture an ever-expanding global film market. Often neglected in cinema scholarship, early filmmaking in Egypt, I argue, is critical to understanding wider processes of nation formation and gendered characterizations.
Revisiting Race and Slavery through ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti’s ‘Aja’ib al-athar
By: Dahlia E. M. Gubara
Published in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 38, no. 2 (2018)
Abstract: The study of something termed Arab/Islamic slavery has flourished in recent years. Through a close reading of a seminal text, ‘Aja’ib al-athar fi’l-tarajim wa’l-akhbar by the late eighteenth-century Ottoman scholar ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti, Gubara’s essay critically engages this literature and its key organizing concepts: namely, the ideas of race, slavery, and freedom. In place of the free-unfree, black-white dichotomies pervading contemporary understandings of labor and subjectivity, the essay calls for greater attention to other concepts and grammars before and outside of Europe.
Abū Zayd al-Hilālī: Trickster, Womanizer, Warrior, Shaykh
By: Dwight F. Reynolds
Published in Journal of Arabic Literature 49, no. 1-2 (2018)
Abstract: Sīrat Banī Hilāl (the Epic of the Banī Hilāl) is rooted in the 10th-century invasion of North Africa by the Banī Hilāl Bedouin tribe after they left their homeland of the Najd in the Arabian Peninsula. Told in a combination of poetry and prose similar to the style of other epic tales such as that of ‘Antar, Sayf ibn Dhī Yazin, and Dhāt al-Himmah, Sīrat Banī Hilāl is nevertheless unique in that it is the only one of the folk epics traditionally to be performed in sung verse to the accompaniment of musical instruments (rather than spoken or read aloud). It is also distinctive for being a tale that recounts the elaborate interactions among a constellation of main figures rather than being primarily about the exploits of a single hero. Among these central characters, however, one in particular deserves notice for his psychological complexity—Abū Zayd al-Hilālī, the black hero of the Banī Hilāl tribe. Abū Zayd, it is argued here, combines many of the features of the ‘classic hero’ as delineated by Otto Rank, Lord Raglan, and Joseph Campbell, as well as characteristics of the Trickster figures studied by Carl Jung, Paul Radin, M.C. Lyons, and others. He is at times the chivalrous hero, a model of manly virtues, but also capable of cunning and deceptive behavior that borders on the dishonorable, and in a few infamous scenes he kills innocent people and tells outright lies to cover his tracks, leaving modern audiences baffled and conflicted. At the same time, however, for reasons spelled out in this essay, Abū Zayd is the character with whom modern Egyptian audiences most clearly identify: a black hero denigrated for his skin color, capable of great deeds of heroism, chivalry, and religious devotion, as well as acts of an intensely transgressive nature.
Jungle Films in Egypt: Race, Anti-Blackness, and Empire
By: Ifdal Elsaket
Published in Arab Studies Journal 25, no. 2 (2017)
Abstract: You, O Egyptians, are the whiteness of the eye, and we are its Blackness, and sight cannot be complete without whiteness. -Naduja (1944)
The scene could be from any of hundreds of jungle films. Safari-suited swashbucklers stumble across an "African" community. There are leopards and tigers, men and women dancing around a fire, torches hoisted in the air, drums pounded rhythmically, tribal spears threatening a distinctly "lighter" female hostage, tied up and ready to be burnt at the stake. The swashbucklers interrupt the dancing and drumming and attempt to save the woman from the ostensibly threatening tribe. But this scene is from Wadi al-Nujum, an Egyptian film made in 1943, when Egypt was still under British occupation and fighting its own battles against colonial misrepresentation.
Ghostly Labor: Ethnic Classism in the Levantine Prism of Jacqueline Kahanoff's Jacob's Ladder
By: Amr Kamal
Published in International Journal of Middle East Studies 49, no. 2 (2017)
Abstract: In her writings, the Egyptian-born Israeli author Jacqueline Shohet Kahanoff advocated Levantine cosmopolitanism, which she dubbed Levantinism, as a unique cultural model particular to the Eastern Mediterranean. Through an analysis of Kahanoff's novel Jacob's Ladder (1951), this article questions the nostalgic image often associated with Egyptian cosmopolitanism. I argue that this text provides rare insight into the process through which Levantine culture developed amid several competing imperial and nationalist projects. In particular, I show how the novel's depiction of Levantine spaces documents the marginalized role of the working class in the education of elite Levantine society and its acquisition of cultural capital. My analysis also explores how the construction and sustenance of a celebrated image of the Levantine past depended on the racialization of labor, or what I call “ethnic classism.” Through this latter process, a labor force made up of other cosmopolitan subjects was Orientalized and relegated to the background where it served to highlight a European-like Levantine cosmopolitanism.
Framing through Paradox: Egypt and the “Obama Supports Terrorism” Campaign
By: Marco Pinfari
Published in Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 40, no. 2 (2017)
Abstract: This article presents and analyzes the “Obama supports terrorism” campaign, which was launched in Egypt in late June 2013 and was instrumental to the framing of some Islamist groups as terrorist both before and after the 3 July 2013 coup. The analysis of the visual material of the campaign highlights its reliance on various Western discourses from the War on Terror, including some whose religious and racial content is an odd fit for a non-Western, Muslim country like Egypt. Yet, despite the lack of a clear and unified causal narrative to justify such framing, the success of the campaign was crucially aided by the symbolic and rhetorical power of its slogan, which provided a credible “schema of interpretation” for its supporters.
On Race, Sports, and Identity: Picking Up The Ball in Middle East Studies
By: Shaun T. Lopez
Published in International Journal of Middle East Studies 41, no. 3 (2009)
Abstract: In their love for sports, Egyptians are no different from people in other parts of the world. They follow closely their favorite local teams in national-cup competitions, the careers of those stars who have taken their games to professional clubs in Europe, and, of course, the fortunes of their national teams in international competition. Success, such as Egypt's victory in the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations can draw millions into the streets of Cairo and Alexandria in celebration. Losses can result in full-scale political investigations launched by President Hosni Mubarak.
Beauty, Whiteness, and Desire: Media, Consumption, and Embodiment in Egypt
By: Farha Ghannam
Published in International Journal of Middle East Studies 40, no. 4 (November 2008)
Abstract: What is the relationship among gender, embodiment, and consumption? How does the media constitute consumers, desires, and subjectivities? How are we to conceptualize the role of media representations in the making of bodies and selves without granting these representations a deterministic power? These questions were central to my anthropological work on the embodiment of femininities and masculinities in a low-income neighborhood in northern Cairo.
Egyptians in Blackface: Nationalism and the Representation of Sudan in Egypt, 1919
By: Eve Trout Powell
Published in Harvard Middle Eastern and Islamic Review 2, no. 2 (1995)
Race in Sudan:
Historicizing Race, Ethnicity, and the Crisis of Citizenship in Sudan and South Sudan
By: Amir Idris
Published in The Middle East Journal 73, no. 4 (2019)
Abstract: This article critically outlines the discursive construction of racial and ethnic identities in Sudan and South Sudan, arguing its legacy is essential to understand the entanglement of state-formation, nationalism, citizenship, and political violence in both countries. Race and ethnicity were central to the colonial, nationalist, and postcolonial projects of inventing the "North" and the "South" as self-contained entities, and the politicization of race and ethnicity after independence is largely a product of "Orientalizing" cultural differences through colonial administrative rules and postcolonial policies.
Is It Because My Face Is Black?
By: Afis Ayinde Oladosu
Published in Journal of Arabic Literature 39, no. 2 (2008)
Abstract: This article focuses on three poems written by one of the late 20th century writers in Sudan, Muhammad Miftāh al-Faytūrī (b.1930), in order to show how the Sudanese have thought about race and racial subjectivities. It situates “al-Tūfān al-Aswad”, “Ilā Wajhin Abyad” and “Thawrat Qaryah” against the postcolonial theories of Frantz Fanon, Albert Memmi, Edward Said and the uncelebrated Sudanese critic, Mu‘āwiyyah Muhammad Nūr (1909-1941). The article reengages postcolonial discourse in and on Africa, retrieves Arabs' perspective on Black politics and identities and tries to show how al-Faytūrī, using Sudan's Afro-Arabic cultural heritage as a reference point, has tried to give agency to Africans even under the unfavourable atmosphere of colonialism in Africa.
Identities: Engaging Self and Other in Modern Sudanese Narrative Discourse
By: Afis Ayinde Oladosu
Published in Middle Eastern Studies 42, no. 6 (2006)
Abstract: How the self and the other have been reflected in the Sudan's contemporary history is a question that has continued to occasion scholarly research in the East and West. Identity has been (is being) inscribed and reinscribed into the Sudanese political, cultural and literary landscape as a foil for the appropriation of that all-important, in Irigaray's term, 'genie'" in the Sudanese. Tayeb Salih's Mawsim al-Hijrah ila alShimal, hereafter Mawsim, has proved to be an important instrument in this direction. It is, according to Nabil Sulayman, 'a reader's delight'. With it identity, in its 'Sudanic' texture, is mirrored. Within its remit the self and other which are figured, in Homi Bhabha's mode, in 'an ambivalent space' become weapons of/for political resistance which legitimates/catalyzes the process of decolonization. Thus identity is seen as a challenge to history and the colony even as the subject (Mustafa Saeed) stands face to face with himself.
Causes of Conflict in Sudan: Testing The Black Book
By: Alex Cobham
Published in The European Journal of Development Research 17, no. 3 (2005)
Abstract: The Black Book of Sudan claims to identify a pattern of political control – by people of its northern regions – which is unbroken during the post-independence period. This is the basis for the view of many of the rebel groups in the country that their conflicts are the result not only of racial or religious discrimination but also importantly of regional marginalisation. This paper uses the available data to evaluate the performance of the current regime, and finds that policy has systematically undermined the human development of the population of the marginal regions, not least Darfur.
Slavery in The Sudan Since 1989
By: Richard Lobbon
Published in Arab Studies Quarterly 23, no. 2 (2001)
Slave Trade in the Sudan in the Nineteenth Century and Its Suppression in the Years 1877-80
By: Alice Moore-Harell
Published in Middle Eastern Studies 34, no. 2 (1998)
Abstract: The subject of slavery and the slave trade in the Sudan during the nineteenth century has been discussed in a number of books and articles. As a rule these do not analyse the struggle to suppress the slave trade itself, but refer mainly to the social and economic aspects of the institution of slavery, and to the various domestic and external political developments that occurred as a result of that struggle during Charles Gordon's Governor-Generalship in the years 1877-80.
The U.N. Finds Slavery in the Sudan
By: David Littman
Published in Middle East Quarterly 3, no. 3 (1996)
Abstract: A military regime espousing a fundamentalist Islamic orientation came to power in Sudan on June 30, 1989. Since 1992, the U.N. General Assembly and its Geneva-based Commission on Human Rights have regularly adopted resolutions condemning the Sudanese government for its many human rights violations. Of particular concern are the accusations against the Sudanese authorities not just of extrajudicial killings and torture but also of slavery and forced conversions to Islam.
Race in the Ottoman Empire and Turkish Republic:
The 1934 anti-Jewish Thrace riots: the Jewish exodus of Thrace through the lens of nationalism and collective violence
By: Banu Eligur
Published in British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 44, no. 1 (2017)
Abstract: This article analyses the causes and the dynamic process of production of the 1934 anti-Jewish Thrace riots. The article, based on the US State Department Records, British Documents on Foreign Affairs and the Turkish Republic’s Prime Ministry Republican Archives as well as Turkish, US and British newspapers, argues that the 1934 anti-Jewish Thrace riots were not spontaneous occurrences caused by over-excited masses, but instead planned actions by some local state elite and Republican People’s Party (RPP) local officials as well as anti-Semitic Turkish ultra-nationalists. The article argues that it was not popular anti-Semitism, but the Turkish state establishment’s security concerns vis-à-vis the perceived Italian and Bulgarian threat that resulted in the riots. The local state elite and RPP local officials, who were uneasy about the economically well-off Jews, acted as ethno-nationalist entrepreneurs by allowing the ultra-nationalists to operate in the riot-prone Thrace, while the rioters mainly participated in the collective violence to receive economic gains as a result of the expulsion of the Jews.
The legal notion of nationality in the Turkish Republic: from Ottoman legacy to modern aberrations
By: Emre Öktem
Published in Middle Eastern Studies 53, no. 4 (2017)
Abstract: Shortly after its emergence, the Turkish Republic adopted legislation inspired by European legal systems and traditions, including a law on nationality. The implementation of this law was affected by the staunchly nationalistic early republican policies which were not immune from the influence of the concept of ‘race’, as well as by the Ottoman legal conceptions on nationality based on religion, both of which guided the application of the new laws by the judiciary and the administration. This article proposes a critical legal approach to the issue of Turkish nationality, based on historical reflections. After a survey on the laws on nationality since the foundation of the Republic, it addresses the major confusions in connection with the concept of nationality in the light of textbooks from the relevant period, in order to observe, in conclusion, inherent and insolvable inconsistencies within the law, and a tenacious survival of Ottoman conceptions within the current law on nationality, especially with regard to religious minorities, which are assimilated to dhimmis in the legal subconscious and often equated to foreigners in practice.
Transplanted Slavery, Contested Freedom, and Vernacularization of Rights in the Reform Era Ottoman Empire
By: Ceyda Karamursel
Published in Comparative Studies in Society and History 59, no. 3 (2017)
Abstract: This article focuses on the jurisdictional conflicts that emerged at the juncture of the transplanted legalities that followed the Caucasian expulsion in the 1850s and 1860s, the proclamation of the proto-constitution known as the Ottoman Reform Edict of 1856, and the internationally enforced ban on trading in African slaves in 1857. Starting with the Caucasian expulsion, it traces how legal practices were carried over with Caucasian refugees to the Ottoman domains and how the judicial management of slavery-related conflicts determined not only the limits of slavery, but also how such liberal “fictions” as freedom or equality before the law were vernacularized by local agents in the Ottoman Empire. Navigating within a set of what were labeled as freedom suits (hürriyet davaları), I examine how enslaved refugees built their claims in relation to different legal terrains, problems, and concepts. I argue that while Caucasian-Ottoman slavery was economically marginal, it nonetheless posed serious challenges to the new political order the Ottomans aspired to establish, and the abolition that never came continued to bend categories of ethnicity, race, and gender in the decades after expulsion.
White Turks, Black Turks? Faultlines beyond Islamism versus secularism
By: Seda Demiralp
Published in Third World Quarterly 33, no. 3 (2012)
Abstract: According to popular views, contemporary Turkish politics is defined by the ideological conflict between Islamist and secularist parties. However, the focus on the Islamism versus secularism dichotomy, a common bias in the studies of Muslim countries, disguises a deeper faultline between the old urban elites and the newly rising provincial actors. This article highlights the need to see beyond the ‘Islamism–secularism’ divide and to consider the complex relations of power between alienated social groups in Turkey. It analyses the intricate and multi-layered forms of ‘othering’ in the urban secularist discourse, which perpetuates the inequalities and contention in society. Instead of taking the ‘Islamism–secularism’ divide as given, the article analyses the construction of secularist and Islamic identities and considers how this dichotomous discourse has empowered the urban parties to control the provincial. Finally, implications for the reconciliation of antagonised social groups are presented.
The Racist Critics of Atatürk and Kemalism, from the 1930s to the 1960s
By: İlker Aytürk
Published in Journal of Contemporary History 46, no. 2 (2011)
Abstract: This article examines racist attitudes toward Atatürk and Kemalism from the 1930s to the 1960s. Liberal, leftist and conservative-Islamist critics of republican Turkey’s founder and his policies have contributed to a widely shared image that, even if Kemalism was not essentially racist, the Kemalist approach to religious and ethnic minorities could hardly be described as egalitarian. Thus one is taken by surprise to uncover a parallel layer of virulent racist criticism, hidden under the deposit of decades of anti-Kemalist discourse. The most important ideologue of racism in Turkey, Nihâl Atsız, and his circle attacked Atatürk’s leadership, condemned Turkey’s foreign policy, and particularly the appeasement policy vis-à-vis the Soviet Union, and, most importantly, ridiculed Kemalist attempts at building a civic nation model in the early republican era. Turkish racists never considered Atatürk and the Kemalists as fellow nationalists; on the contrary, the research for this article shows that racists questioned their nationalist credentials and accused Kemalists of being cosmopolitans. The acrimonious relationship between the racists and the Kemalist establishment can be taken as an example of how the latter oscillated between a western, democratic orientation and an inward-looking, xenophobic worldview, providing us, therefore, with a more complicated and multi-faceted picture of Kemalism.
‘Is The Turk A White Man?’ towards A theoretical Framework for Race in The Making of Turkishness
By: Murat Erigin
Published in Middle Eastern Studies 44, no. 6 (2008)
Abstract: Drawing on critical whiteness studies, this article explores the role of race in the formation and maintenance of Turkish identity. The aim is to make connections across time (between contemporary Turkey and its past), space (placing the Turkish experience within a transnational context), and theoretical perspectives (investigating questions arising from the framework of whiteness within the context of Turkey). I argue that the literature of nationalism alone cannot illuminate the significance of racial vocabularies in early republican (1923–50) and contemporary Turkey. In criticizing current approaches that ignore the reality of race in Turkey, this article proposes a theoretical perspective in which race and whiteness emerge as a decisive component of Turkish modernity. Taking race seriously not only helps us to understand the Turkish experience of modernization but also extends theories of race. The article presents the manifestations of racial vocabularies in terms of immutability and chromatism as embedded in Turkish identity.
(Some) Turkish Transnationalism(S) in An Age of Capitalist Globalization and Empire: “White Turk” Discourse, The New Geopolitics, and Implications for Feminist Transnationalism
By: Sedef Arat-Koç
Published in Journal Middle East Women’s Studies 3, no. 1 (2007)
Abstract: This paper proposes that regional feminisms would be productive in avoiding some of the problems of "global feminism" or the co-opted shapes feminist transnationalism might take when it serves the priorities of international organizations or imperial powers. While Middle Eastern feminists would especially benefit from regional transnational links—given the nature of the social, economic, political, and geopolitical challenges that face the women and the people of the region in an age of capitalist globalization and empire—the paper warns that some dominant feminisms in the region may not be up to the task. The focus of the paper is on "white Turk" identity and ideology which have emerged in Turkey since the 1980s and have significantly influenced political and intellectual orientations among intellectuals, including liberal feminists. It is argued that this influence negatively impacts the capacity of liberal feminism both to articulate inclusive analysis and politics that would address different groups of Turkish women and to relate to other feminist groups in the Middle East.
The Double Bind of Race and Religion: The Conversion of the Dönme to Turkish Secular Nationalism
By: Marc Baer
Published in Comparative Studies in Society and History 46, no. 4 (2004)
Abstract: For over two centuries the Dönme lived an open secret in Ottoman Salonika following their conversion from Judaism to Islam in the wake of the conversion of the messianic rabbi Shabbatai Tzevi in 1666. Neither the category “Jewish” nor “Muslim” expresses their religious identity. Unlike Jews, the Dönme ostensibly followed the requirements of Islam, including fasting at Ramadan and praying in mosques, one of which they built. Unlike Muslims, the Dönme maintained a belief that Shabbatai Tzevi was the messiah, practiced kabbalistic rituals, and recited prayers in Hebrew and Judeo-Spanish. According to the descendants of Dönme in Istanbul, the Dönme in Salonika saw themselves as a community apart; fulfilling the commandments of Shabbatai Tzevi caused Dönme to only marry among themselves, avoid relations with Jews, maintain their separate identity guided by detailed genealogies, and bury their dead in distinct cemeteries. (Dönmeler 1919:15; Galanté 1935:67; and Stavroulakis 1993).
Race in Iran:
Race and the Aesthetics of Alterity in Mahshid Amirshahi’s Dadeh Qadam-Kheyr
By: Amirhossein Vafa
Published in Iranian Studies 51, no. 1 (2018)
Abstract: Focusing on black women Qadam-Kheyr and Sorur in Mahshid Amirshahi’s novel Dadeh Qadam-Kheyr (1999), this article examines literary representations of the African-Iranian presence, and provides a critique of race and slavery in twentieth-century Iran. In light of the history of the Iranian slave trade until 1928, and the reconstruction of race and gender identities along Eurocentric lines of nationalism in Iran, the novel under scrutiny is a dynamic site of struggle between an “Iranian” literary discourse and its “non-Persian” Others. The “aesthetics of alterity” at the heart of the text is, therefore, the interplay between the repressed title-character Qadam-Kheyr and the resilient minor character Sorur, each registering Amirshahi’s artistic intervention into a forgotten corner of Iranian history.
Enslaved African Women in Nineteenth-Century Iran: The Life of Fezzeh Khanom of Shiraz
By: Anthony A. Lee
Published in Iranian Studies 45, no. 3 (2012)
Abstract: Fezzeh Khanom (c. 1835–82), an African woman, was a slave of Sayyed ‘Ali-Mohammad of Shiraz, the Bab. Information about her life can be recovered from various pious Baha'i histories. She was honored, and even venerated by Babis, though she remained subordinate and invisible. The paper makes the encouraging discovery that a history of African slavery in Iran is possible, even at the level of individual biographies. Scholars estimate that between one and two million slaves were exported from Africa to the Indian Ocean trade in the nineteenth century, most to Iranian ports. Some two-thirds of African slaves brought to Iran were women intended as household servants and concubines. An examination of Fezzeh Khanom's life can begin to fill the gaps in our knowledge of enslaved women in Iran. The paper discusses African influences on Iranian culture, especially in wealthy households and in the royal court. The limited value of Western legal distinctions between slavery and freedom when applied to the Muslim world is noted.
Law’s Inhumanities: Peripheral Racialization and the Early Development of an Iranian Race
By: Nina Farnia
Published in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 31, no. 2 (2011)
Abstract: This article examines the racialization of Iran and Iranians by excavating the treatment of Iran in the naturalization cases from the early twentieth century. In so doing, the article highlights both the continuities and disjunctures of a racialization process that began long before there were identifiable populations of Iranians in the country or the United States had developed a coherent foreign policy vis-á-vis “the Middle East.” Iranians and Iranian Americans find themselves in a precarious position in contemporary race discourse. On the one hand, Iranians are formally categorized as white by the state. Likely as a result of this categorization, few scholars have taken up the question of how Iranians are raced, particularly in the context of law and public policy. On the other hand, if and when the community is discussed in academic or popular literature on race, it is thrown into the emergent, amorphous category of “Arab and Muslim.” While it is true that the racialization of Iranians, Arabs, and Muslims is an overlapping process that similarly affects all three communities, an analysis of the law reveals that the racialization of Iranians has a distinct lineage in American foreign and domestic policy, such that in the same moment that the state rendered Arab Americans white for purposes of naturalization, Iranians were deployed as the primary colored referent from which Arabs should be distinguished. I call this process “peripheral racialization.” This article attempts to prompt questions about the role of American foreign policy interests in race-ing Iranians in the United States. The example of Iran is particularly salient in the contemporary context, for it has much to tell us about the operation of white supremacy in America’s efforts to develop and maintain a modern empire in “the Middle East.
Michel Foucault's Analytics of War: The Social, The International, and The Racial
By: Vivienne Jabri
Published in International Political Sociology 1, no. 1 (2007)
Abstract: The absence of the international as a distinct socio-political sphere in Michel Foucault's work forms a major part of the postcolonial critique of his writings. The absence of the international has a number of consequences for any critical engagement with Foucault in the context of global politics. The significance of these consequences becomes apparent when we consider Foucault's analytics of war and power, situate these in relation to the particularity of the international, consider the very pertinent critiques of Foucault emanating from postcolonial writings, and finally re-locate Foucault in the international not, as is the predominant approach in International Relations, through the application of Foucaultian concepts, but through Foucault's own political writings on the non-western arena, specifically his engagement with the Iranian Revolution. While limited in their scope, an evaluation of these writings appears to vindicate postcolonial critiques of Foucault, though with some revealing qualifications.
Zoroastrian Sources On Black People
By: Dan Shapira
Published in Arabica 49, no. 1 (2002)
Abstract: The purpose of this short note is to draw attention to Zoroastrian attitudes to the Black Africans. These attitudes can be seen in the traditional Zoroastrian literature in Middle Persian, which flourished more than a millennium ago.
Race in the Maghreb:
Visions of the Sahara: Negotiating the History and Historiography of Premodern Saharan Slavery
By: E. Ann McDougall
Published in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 38, no. 2 (2018)
Abstract: The historiography of the Sahara and trans-Saharan trade provides an explanatory key as to how premodern Saharan slavery has been understood since the nineteenth century. Part 1 of McDougall’s article deconstructs that historiography in terms of the intersecting influences of the Atlantic model (slavery, slave trading, and the black diaspora), the Atlantic trade (commodities, including slaves out of West Africa), and Orientalism (Islam and Eastern visions of slavery). Part 2 develops a case study of a medieval Saharan commercial center, Awdaghust, to explore how these influences have been articulated in a concrete history. By first engaging with a recently published book on race, slavery, and Islam—all key factors in that articulation—and then revisiting largely overlooked 1970s and 1980s research, she suggests that there is much still to be learned about Saharan slavery that cannot be seen from within either the Atlantic or the Oriental worldview.
‘The Transformation of Man’ in French Algeria: Economic Planning and the Postwar Social Sciences, 1958–62
By: Muriam Haleh Davis
Published in Journal of Contemporary History 52, no. 1 (2017)
Abstract: This article demonstrates how the evolution of US social sciences during the Cold War influenced French attempts to develop Algeria economically and socially. During a violent war of decolonization, French researchers drew from social psychology to inform development policies. Studying political trends through the lens of cultural and psychological factors transformed older understandings of social classification. Rather than being conceived in primarily biological terms, racial difference was increasingly defined in relationship to economic capacities. The Constantine Plan, introduced in 1958, exemplified the intimate link between social planning and the postwar social sciences. The article then studies attempts to develop the Sahara, where planners sought to determine which races would be able to work in the harsh conditions of the desert. Arguing that social planning in Algeria was not merely a ‘colonial’ phenomena, this article shows how development reflected the broader shifts in thinking about the economy and social organization that marked the 1950s and 1960s.
A Major Link Between France's Berber Policy in Morocco and Its "Policy of Races" in French West Africa: Commandant Paul Marty (1882-1938)
By: Pessah Shinar
Published in Islamic Law and Society 13, no. 1 (2006)
Abstract: Virtually from the beginning of the protectorate (1912), the French in Morocco attempted to seal off the Berber-speaking tribes from the penetration of Islam and of the Arabic language. The present paper argues that this policy (the "Berber policy") was modeled on a similar policy (the "policy of races") adopted by the French in West Africa at the beginning of the twentieth century, the main difference being that in West Africa it was the "animists" who were to be sealed off. In both cases, the French acted as they did in order to ensure the permanence of their rule. It is argued that Paul Marty, the eminent authority on Islam in West Africa, was a key figure in the implementation of these policies in both regions.
Mauritanian Activists' Struggle Against Slavery
By: Alice Bullard
Published in Middle East Report 223 (Summer 2002)
Race in Syria and Iraq:
Racializing Religion: Constructing Colonial Identities in the Syrian Provinces in the Nineteenth Century
By: Andrew Delatolla, Joanne Yao
Published in International Studies Review 21, no. 4 (2019)
Abstract: In recent decades, international events and incisive critical voices have catapulted the concepts of race and religion to the foreground of International Relations research. In particular, scholars have sought to recover the racialized and imperial beginnings of IR as an academic discipline in the early-20th century. This article contributes to this growing body of work by analyzing both race and religion as conceptual tools of scientific imperial administration—tools that in the 19th century classified and divided the global periphery along a continuum of civilizational and developmental difference. The article then applies this framework to the case of French, and more broadly, European, relations with populations in the Ottoman Empire, particularly within the Syrian Provinces. As described throughout this article and the case study, the Europeans used the language of race to contribute to religious hierarchies in the Syrian provinces in the mid- and late-19th century, having a lasting effect on discussions of religion in IR and international politics.
Waves of the Black Banner: An Exploratory Study on the Dutch Jihadist Foreign Fighter Contingent in Syria and Iraq
By: Reinier Bergema and Marion van San
Published in Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 42, no. 7 (2019)
Abstract: Since the violent escalation of the Syrian conflict, 280 Dutch nationals have been flocking to Syria and Iraq to join jihadist terrorist organizations. Attempts to create a more comprehensive understanding of the backgrounds of these jihadist foreign fighters often rely on small-N, qualitative analysis. This exploratory study systematically assesses the backgrounds of 217 Dutch jihadist foreign fighters. Additionally, it further differentiates the different “waves” of fighters since late 2012, by looking at their characteristics and comparing their composition.
Internal colonisation: The intimate circulations of empire, race and liberal government
By: Joe Turner
Published in The European Journal of International Relations 24, no. 4 (2018)
Abstract: This article proposes that ‘internal colonisation’ provides a necessary lens through which to explore the relationship between violence and race in contemporary liberal government. Contributing to an increasing interest in race in International Relations, this article proposes that while racism remains a vital demarcation in liberal government between forms of worthy/unworthy life, this is continually shaped by colonial histories and ongoing projects of empire that manifest in the Global North and South in familiar, if not identical, ways. In unpacking the concept of internal colonisation and its intellectual history from Black Studies into colonial historiography and political geography, I highlight how (neo-)metropolitan states such as Britain were always active imperial terrain and subjected to forms of colonisation. This recognises how metropole and colonies were bounded together through colonisation and how knowledge and practices of rule were appropriated onto a heterogeneity of racialised and undesirable subjects both within colonies and Britain. Bringing the argument up to date, I show how internal colonisation remains diverse and dispersed under liberal empire — enhanced through the war on terror. To do this, I sketch out how forms of ‘armed social work’ central to counterinsurgency in Afghanistan and Iraq are also central to the management of sub-populations in Britain through the counterterrorism strategy Prevent. Treating (neo-)metropoles such as the UK as part of imperial terrain helps us recognise the way in which knowledge/practices of colonisation have worked across multiple populations and been invested in mundane sites of liberal government. This brings raced histories into closer encounters with the (re)making of a raced present.
Sex-Slavery: One Aspect of the Yezidi Genocide
By: Peter Nicolaus and Serkan Yuce
Published in Iran and the Caucasus 21, no. 2 (2017)
Abstract: Even though almost three years have passed since the black banners of the terror organisation, calling themselves the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” (ISIS) were first hoisted throughout the Yezidi heartland of Sinjar, the Yezidi community continues to be targeted by ISIS, militias. 300,000 vegetate in camps as Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) in Iraqi Kurdistan; thousands of others have been killed, are missing, or remain in captivity where they are subjected to unspeakable sexual and physical abuse. With deference for these victims of violence, and without detracting from the collective suffering and trauma of the entire Yezidi community of Sinjar (families, women, men, and children alike), the authors have chosen to focus the present article on the plight and misery of the females; who were, and still are, facing despicable sexual abuses, unfathomable atrocities, and unfettered human rights violations. In doing so, they highlight the views of the fundamentalist Islam practiced by ISIS that encourages sex-slavery, while elaborating on the complacent acceptance of ISIS terror tactics by the local Sunni population of the territories they control. The work goes on to describe how survivors escaped, as well as how they are received and treated by the Yezidi community and state authorities. This discussion includes an overview of the national and international mechanisms available for prosecuting ISIS members for their crimes of genocide against the Yezidi people. The authors further stress that the genocide has contributed to, and even accelerated the process of the Yezidi selfidentification as a unique ethno-religious entity; which, in turn, has produced changes to their religious traditions. These changes will be briefly covered by examining a new approach to the institution of the Kerāfat.
The Other "Nahḍah": The Bedirxans, The Millîs and The Tribal Roots of Kurdish Nationalism in Syria
By: Stefan Winter
Published in Oriente Moderno 25, no. 3 (2006)
Abstract: The study of Kurdish nationalism and its history in Syria has been much impelled by current affairs in the past years, from the emergence of Iraq's Kurds as a quasi-independent polity in the Middle East, to the significant relaxation of restrictions on Kurdish language and press in Turkey, to the new push for political liberalization in Syria itself. Both in the region and among the important emigre communities of Sweden and Germany, there has been an unprecedented output of popular magazines, memoirs, and private documents pertaining to Kurdish culture and history, while a growing body of specialized research is today contributing to carving a place for Kurdish studies in western academia. Much of this literary production has understandably focused on the icons of Kurdish national identity construction in modern times, on the writers, activists and political leaders who personify the epic quest for the rights and recognition of an entire people.
Race in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon:
The domestic application of international human rights conventions in Saudi Arabia and the need to ratify conventions on migrant workers
By: Abdullah M. Almutairi
Published in Middle Eastern Studies 54, no. 1 (2018)
Abstract: This article examines the application of international human rights conventions in Saudi legislation where Sharia is the main source of law. Saudi laws often adopt the dualistic approach and its international human rights obligations must be in agreement with the Sharia. This paper further intends to explore the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's (KSA) position on reservations and ratifications of international human rights conventions generally and in the context of migrant workers’ rights particularly. Since the KSA has not ratified any convention related to migrant worker protection, it is essential to examine the role of national human rights organisations in implementing and promoting human rights in the KSA and the article explores the significant efforts made by these organisations to implement and protect the rights of migrant workers in the country. It argues that the KSA has ratified a number of human rights conventions such as the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; however, it has failed to comply with its provisions. It is suggested that non-discrimination provisions of some of these conventions may be used to advance migrants’ rights in the country.
Whitewashing Arabic for global consumption: translating race in The Story of Zahra
By: Ghenwa Hayek
Published in Middle Eastern Literatures 20, no. 1 (2017)
Abstract: This article argues that in reading comparatively the Arabic and English versions of Hanan al-Shaykh’s 1980 Ḥikāyat Zahra, a pattern of omitting race and racial language emerges in the English version, published in 1986. I use a close reading of the translation’s selective appropriation of the original’s racial and political language to argue for a more intersectional approach to Arabic women’s writing, even as I acknowledge the structural and institutional contexts and constraints under which they operate and circulate in the global market of “world literature.”