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The Middle East and Beyond

Session XI-17, 2022 Annual Meeting

On Sunday, December 4 at 8:30 am

Panel Description
  • The present paper aims to analyze in comparative perspective the writings of Jalal Al-e Ahmad (1923-1969) and Necip Fazıl Kısakürek (1904-1983), two very prominent public intellectuals of two countries, central in the Middle East by the sake of their modern histories, encounters with Europe as well as complex experiences of modernization and nation-building. From these writings, it attempts to excavate how they have engaged with the notion of the West and, in doing so, simultaneously, in which ways have they also self-fashioned and positioned themselves vis-à-vis this ubiquitous notion. In this regard, the following texts remain at the focal stage of this inquiry; the published Persian original of Al-e Ahmad’s Gharbzadegi (Westoxication) along with one of its most widely known English translations entitling Occidentosis: A Plague from the West by Robert Campbell and the published Turkish original of Kısakürek’s İdeolocya Örgüsü (The Weave of Ideologia). As its lay methodology, this paper employs source criticism in a comparative context. Complementarily, the ideas, tropes and concepts accommodated in these two texts are contrasted with the utilization of two thematical categories: the East-West dichotomy and history of the West. Hence, these two overarching categories serve to converge and juxtapose these different elements in a more systematic and practical fashion. Lastly, as far as their perceptions of the West are concerned, this paper reveals one glaring difference between these two intellectuals through its critical inquiry. Influenced by the Marxist understandings of capitalism, imperialism and coloniality, in Gharbzadegi Al-e Ahmad perceives the West as a geopolitical alliance, orchestrating a political and economic hegemony over other non-Western countries including his homeland Iran. On the other hand, while Kısakürek in his seminal piece İdeolocya Örgüsü also affirms the geopolitical disposition of the West, he elects to conceptualize this putative notion more as a community of values contrived by the civilizational legacies of Ancient Greece and Christianity. Based on these particular insights, it is eventually argued that this essential difference between the perceptions of these intellectuals is closely entangled with their homelands’ modern histories and peculiar encounters with Europe.
  • The Coptic Orthodox Patriarch, Dīmitrīūs II, acted to end American missionary work in the south of Egypt in 1867. Starting in 1865, the American missionaries attempted to open new stations in the south, but the Coptic bishops opposed this move. Although they did not achieve a significant impact due to this resistance, the patriarch took a pastoral trip on a viceroy yacht and visited various dioceses, including three locations experiencing Protestant-Coptic conflict: Asyūṭ, Akhmīm, and Qūṣ. As he traveled, he opened Coptic schools, banned involvement with Protestant services and books, and excommunicated any Coptic-Protestants. He sometimes used physical force and the backing of governmental bodies against the indigenous converts to return them to the Coptic Church. In this context, the American missionaries concluded that the Coptic patriarch was acting against the policy of religious toleration promulgated by Ottoman Egypt, and they felt that the Egyptian government should stop him. In their writings, they named the conflict as “ecclesiastical warfare” and “Coptic opposition and persecution.” At the same time, the Coptic patriarch asserted a similar accusation against the American and Egyptian Protestants. The Ottoman Egyptian government supported the patriarch’s authority over his religious community as a plan to defend Coptic religious liberty against missionary attacks. Thus, this paper will ask the following question: How did their contrasting cultural views of religious toleration propel the American missionaries and Coptic leaders into ecclesiastical conflict? This historical study will analyze the cultural clash between the American missionaries and Coptic leaders in 1867. This research will benefit from recent scholarly developments in the historical study of Anglo-American Missions in Middle East in the 19th century. Several scholars, such as Heather Sharkey, Paul Sedra, and Ussma Makdisi have enriched the scholarship of American-European missions and Egyptian Christianity. They have highlighted the need for the re-reading of the history of Christianity and its context in distinctive ways. Moreover, they have investigated indigenous sources, marginalized groups and cities, powers, and conversion processes. My analysis will build on these studies, and present a new viewpoint about the Cultural encounters between the American missionaries, the Coptic Orthodox Church in the context of Ottoman Egypt. It will examine the writings of indigenous and marginalized groups which have not yet been studied.
  • This paper explores the presentation of the “Holy Land” in Evangelical theme parks and exhibitions through a comparison between the Holy Land Experience (HLE) theme park that opened in Orlando in 2001 and the “Palestine in London” (PiL) exhibition that opened in England in 1907. From its opening until its demise last year, the HLE was billed as Christian competition for Walt Disney World and its rise and fall has been understood as a quintessentially American tale of the crass commercialization of religion. This paper offers a different perspective by arguing that while its spectacles were bigger, the HLE built on long-standing Protestant tropes about the Holy Land and its people. I show this through a comparison of the exhibits on display, the biblical episodes highlighted, and the entertainments served up at the HLE and the PiL held nearly a century earlier, which indicates that the glitzy theme park served up much the same materials and messaging as the much lower-budget British exhibition. Those messages were not purely religious but also political with both spectacles linking the story of Jesus to the story of Judaism and promoting the idea of Jews being essential to the Holy Land’s redemption. As such, I read these sites as Christian Zionist texts that promoted a feeling of support for Israel (or for the Yishuv in the case of the 1907 exhibition) by appealing to visitors’ faith in prophecy. The paper shows how Zionism was fundamental to the religious message of the two impresarios behind these exhibits: the HLE’s Reverend Marvin Rosenthal, a Jewish convert to the Baptist tradition who had previously directed the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, and the PiL’s director Samuel Schor, who was born to Jewish parents in Jerusalem and wrote numerous books about the coming end of days and the importance of the Jewish people in Israel’s redemption. The paper also considers the place of Arabs in both spaces and more particularly their conspicuous absence in the HLE as compared to the PiL in which actors portraying Arabs were used to provide local color. The paper is based upon extensive research into primary sources (newspaper articles, speeches and books by the founders, planning documents, etc.) and secondary sources on the theme park and the exhibition. It is part of a larger project about the promotion of Zionism at Christian Evangelical sites.
  • One of the main discussions about the establishment of the Republic of Turkey and the signing of the Lausanne Agreement is the position of the US during and after the Turkish National Struggle and its perception of Turkish Nationalists. Because the US did not have an official consulate and representative in the Ottoman State since 1917, the relations and connections between the Americans, either representing the American government or acting as independent journalists, and businessmen were carried out at on an informal basis. American authors, diplomats, journalists, Mission staff and travellers were very active in the country between the years 1918 and 1922. There are dispatches, memoirs, newspaper articles and notes sent from Turkey to the US by these individuals which will help us understand how the Americans perceived Turkey, the Turkish nationalists, and the possibility of a “mandate regime” for the country by the US. Although the official reports from King-Crane Commission and Harbord Commission are very well-known and are considered as the roadmap showing US policy towards Turkey during that period, there are other dispatches, memoirs, journal articles and reports below that affected the US policy by forming the American public opinion. One of these is the dispatches sent by American journalists (Constantine Browne of the Chicago Tribune and Clarence Streit of Philadelphia Public Ledger) to the US during this period. Other articles published in important journals (Current History, Asia, The Outlook, Literary Digest, Contemporary Review, World’s Work, North American Review, Nation, American Review of Reviews, Living Age, Fortnightly Review, Foreign Affairs, Atlantic Monthly and Quarterly Review) which were issued in the US during this period are also relevant to this paper. In addition to that, the reports and memoirs of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief- The American Committee for Relief in the Near East (ACRN) - The Near East Relief) members in Turkey shed light on this issue. This paper aims to find answers to some questions such as: “Although not officially acknowledged, did the proposal sent by a group of Turkish intellectuals to the US President Wilson in 1919 about the formation of a de-facto mandate regime in Turkey with American assistance shape the relations between the two countries?” and “Was there actual American assistance to the Turkish nationalists during the Turkish War of Independence?”.