5 Things: Podcasts

I recently got an iPad (I know, welcome to the 21st century, right?) and have become an avid listener of a variety of podcasts. While I probably enjoy listening to at least 10 different podcasts, I’ve chosen five that I can’t get enough of right now:

Stuff Mom Never Told You. This has a distinctly feminist bent, but (so?) shouldn’t preclude anyone from listening. In addition to a variety of other topics looked at from a feminist and gender perspective, earlier this summer they did a series on romantic comedies. It was great and has added several films to my must-watch list.

Stuff You Missed in History Class. These are fun and cover a variety of historical topics that, as the name suggests, you probably didn’t learn in your general education history classes. (Several weeks ago, the hosts posted to the podcast’s blog about concerns that they include “too many women” on the program. If you want to read their excellent response to that claim, click here.)

Pop Culture Happy Hour. This podcast makes me aware of how painfully unaware I am of pop culture. But they did do an episode on “Bob’s Burgers” last month that was something I know about before listening.

Ottoman History Podcast. This obviously aligns more to my particular professional and academic interests, but, like “Stuff You Missed in History Class,” the hosts and guests provide you with a look at the past that you probably never got. They also do a good job at showing how history isn’t just memorizing a bunch of names and dates.

Sit’N Listen. This comes from Harvard University’s graduate student organization, Science in the News (SITN), and has so far discussed a number of topics, ranging from GMOs to the construction of sex and gender in science (spoiler from the latter: science isn’t as objective as we like to think it is!).

Bonus for those who like politics: Off Message and The Axe Files are two I’ve been listening to lately.

Since I’m a podcast neophyte, I’d be happy to hear your recommendations in the comments!

Research Update 2: Syrian Ladies’ Aid Society, in Conclusion

I finished the paper for this project (see post title) just over two years ago. I never got a chance to update my blog to document the research and writing process as planned, but I thought I might hit the high points and conclude that project out here. I hope you’ll find some helpful insights and maybe more info about the project that intrigues you.

As I alluded to in my first and only post on the subject, the research itself was a bit of a weather adventure and I didn’t get to spend as much time in the archive at the Arab American National Museum as I would have liked (in fact, I spent most of my trip watching Netflix and the accumulation of snow). I was able to get enough to complete the project, but it is something I hope to return to in the future. Some highlights from the project (research, writing, and completion):

Title: “To Help All Syrian and Lebanese Wherever”: The Syrian Ladies’ Aid Society and Cultural Maintenance in the Diaspora

Main argument: Through their charitable and fundraising activities, the women of the Syrian Ladies’ Aid Society played a key role in the creation of a Syrian-American identity in the diaspora as they moved women’s role in cultural maintenance from the home to the political and transnational public sphere.

Research process: Pictures (approximately 300; researchers who spend weeks and months in the archive have thousands of pictures to sort through). Because my time in the archive was limited to begin with and ended up being even more limited as a result of weather, the two half days of research I was able to do was a flurry of picture-taking and quick note-making that I got to process when I got home. Here’s an image of my image database, using Excel (this was the first half day, when I thought I would have two and a half more days of research, so my notes are more complete):

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I duplicated this list to some extent in Evernote in order to draw out some of the main themes (see image below). It worked well for me, but I think it was a lot of duplicating work and I’m thinking of better ways to organize myself for my dissertation, where my pictures will number in the several thousand, I’m sure. One of my colleagues uses Google Drive and tags his pictures so that he can easily search for specific documents. I think you can also describe and annotate the image. I’ll check it out and write about it as my research progresses.

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Writing: A LOT of drafts. Going through my folder, I have about 15 drafts saved, from initial thematic write-ups to several versions of the full document. Looking through them, I can see how my paper evolved in significant ways over the several weeks and many drafts. I also remember the many breakthroughs and insights I had while working on these drafts that, in many ways, reshaped my paper’s entire argument and, ultimately, made it a better paper. I seem to recall that, in order to complete this project, I devoted a particular amount of time per day to writing for it. I’m guessing about an hour. This is a process I hope to continue as I work on my dissertation and other future projects. I’ll keep you updated on how that works out, too.

Completion: Though this project had a formal completion date, I find that none of my projects are ever really done, and I look forward to returning to this one at some point, maybe revising it to write an article. If that happens, I’ll keep you in the loop about that, too!

What is your writing process like? What projects (academic, non-academic, personal) are you working on right now?




The Interwar Middle East

If you’ve been following along on my blog or have read my “About” section, you know that I plan to focus my research roughly on the period between World War I and World War II in the Middle East. For those who are unfamiliar with the history of the region during this time, I thought I’d provide a (very) brief overview in a (probably kinda dry) post.

The period immediately following World War I was a time of immense change in the Middle East that defined, in many, and some very literal, ways, the region as we know it today. I’m particularly interested in the area that became the modern-day states of Syria and Lebanon as they came to be as a result of the divvying up of the Ottoman Empire by the British and French after their victory in the First World War. Because World War I is essential to what came after it, I’llĀ  include a brief overview of that conflict as it played out in the Middle East (sorry, I won’t be including Iran in this discussion).

World War I in the Middle East

The Ottoman Empire entered World War I on the side of the Germans in November 1915. The result was a multi-front assault on the Ottoman Empire, largely by British forces in Egypt, Iraq, and western Anatolia (modern-day Turkey). While the Germans and Ottomans made considerable progress and held their own for the first two years of the war, 1918 saw a change in fortunes that eventually led to a German-Ottoman defeat at the hands of the British, French, and Italians. The loss in human life in the Ottoman Empire was catastrophic. In addition to the war dead, wounded, and missing, the territories that would become Syria and Lebanon experienced mass starvation, the combined result of successive years of drought, a locust infestation, and a Franco-Anglo blockade of the Mediterranean coast.

The Mandate

While everyone knows about the outcome of World War I in Europe, the massive human toll and the harsh penalties heaped on a defeated Germany by the winning French and English powers, relatively little is discussed of what this meant for the Ottoman Empire. During the course of the war, the ultimately victorious Powers (British, French, and Italians) made a series of seemingly conflicting agreements concerning the fate of the Ottoman territories. Egypt, and what became Turkey and Saudi Arabia became independent or quasi-independent in the years following WWI. Other territories saw themselves placed under French and British Mandatory administrations. The dividing up of these territories led to the creation of the modern-day states of Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, and Palestine (what would become Israel in 1948), and the creation of an internationally-administered Jerusalem. Syria and Lebanon were placed under French mandate and the remainder under British.

The notion of the mandate was established by Article 22 of the League of Nations charter. In its essentials, it declared that certain states were not yet able to govern themselves. Until they could, foreign powers would provide administrative oversight of all of that country’s affairs, helping to establish a constitution and a functioning governmental system. It was, basically, colonization under another name.

The Mandate in Syria and Lebanon

The implementation of the mandatory administration in the Middle East took different forms. In French mandate Syria and Lebanon, the ideological base of the project was based on France’s Mission Civilisatrice, or the Civilizing Mission. This was a paternalistic belief that French colonization and administration would bring European civilization to the uncivilized masses; in the context of Syria and Lebanon, France had additional ideological interests as the special protector of the region’s Maronite Christians (a type of Christianity that had claimed allegiance to the pope in Rome). The inhabitants of these new nations did not acquiesce silently to this imposed administration, and the twenty-plus-year period of the mandate was a time of conflict and upheaval, as various nationalist groups attempted to rid their country of what they saw as colonial occupiers.

Ultimately, it was World War II that brought the Syrian and Lebanese mandates to an end in 1945, when the French agreed to full independence and the withdrawal of all their troops from the two nations. Historians of the mandate have long debated its legacy. While the French mandate officials often saw themselves as saviors from the oppressive rule of the Ottoman Turks, Arab nationalists at the time questioned the morality of the mandate system itself, as well as the French implementation of it in their countries. Later historians, while often acknowledging to one degree or another some of the positive aspects of the mandatory administration, have generally concluded that this was an inherently colonial process that left an insufficiently-prepared, and in some ways permanently weakened administrative system in its wake.


World War I and the implementation of the mandate period in the years following it ushered in an age of increased European, and later American, direct intervention in the workings of Middle Eastern states. While European powers had been meddling in Ottoman affairs since the late 18th century, and held effective control over Egypt since the late nineteenth century, the post-WWI period ushered in an era of direct colonial rule over the more populous Arab regions of the former Ottoman Empire. When the mandatory administrations were brought to an end throughout the Middle East, Western involvement with these states did not come to an end, and can still be seen to this day. For the governments of Syria and Lebanon, the legacy of the mandate can be seen in the conflicts and divisions that have plagued those two countries since.


Feel free to leave any comments, thoughts, or questions in the comments section!

Week 1 Roll Call

Week 1 turned out to be quite light on the reading. See below for the readings I did get to look at, my thoughts on/overview of them, and future posting possibilities.

Middle East in the Twentieth Century

There are three assigned texts for this class: William Cleveland’s A History of the Modern Middle East, James Gelvin’s The Modern Middle East: A History, and Charles D. Smith’s Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict. My plan is to provide a summary of the readings and class lectures. Week 1 focused on the Middle East in the 19th century, with Turkey, the Arab Middle East, and parts of North Africa under Ottoman rule, and Iran under Qajar rule. We discussed the development of notions of modernity over the course of the 19th century in Europe and the Middle East, showing the ways in which the same modernization projects happening in Europe were occurring in the Ottoman Empire and Qajar Iran concurrently. We also looked at the lead up to World War I, which we’ll be discussing more fully Week 2.

I’m also going to (*fingers crossed*) use this space to keep you (and myself) up-to-date on my readings for the final assignment I’m undertaking for this class. I’ve decided to conduct a historiography* of sorts, using the opportunity of a class assignment to begin to situate myself in the literature I will be using for my dissertation project, as well as for my Middle East research paper next quarter (our program requires two two-quarter research series – this year I’ve been in the U.S. Research seminar; next year I’ll take the Middle East). So, I’ll be looking at memoirs, the vast majority written by women, from the Mandate period (1920-1945) in Syria and Lebanon. I’m excited to get this project going and have two on my list so far: Anbara Salam’s Memoirs of an Early Arab Feminist and Wadad Makdisi Cortas’ A World I Loved. More to come on this.

Scholarship of the Modern Middle East, Post-Colonial

No assignments for Week 1. Stay tuned next week for my summary of Stephen Hemsley Longrigg’s Syria and Lebanon under French Mandate.

The French Revolution, 1789-1815

Week 1 in this class provided an introduction to some of the social conflicts present in pre-revolutionary France. Along these lines, the assigned readings focused on providing a general historical background supported by a variety of primary sources from Laura Mason and Tracey Rizzo’s The French Revolution: A Document Collection, as well as some online sources.

Though this is the class that I’m a grader for, and not one that I’m taking, I’m going to include the readings for it in my weekly roll call. I think this class will provide good fodder for a discussion of pedagogy and pedagogical techniques related to readings, course content, and class structure.


*Historiography: the study of the study of history; or, how historians have examined a particular event, period, or person, with a particular focus on how that has changed over time, methods that have been employed in historical analysis, and the theoretical framework that has been used in that study


If you’re on the quarter system, how was your first week? If not, how’s the mid-semester point? Anyone on spring break?