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!

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’ll  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 2 Roll Call

The quarter got into its full swing this week. I had a full load of reading and writing. As I noted in the first post of the quarter, my reading load is really quite a bit lighter this quarter. This will give me the opportunity to provide a greater diversity of posts. Last week, I wrote that I would use this extra space and time to talk about pedagogy, my research, and other things. These kinds of things will be forthcoming, and some will be incorporated into my weekly roll calls.

Without further ado, readings from Week 2:

Middle East in the Twentieth Century

This week’s readings focused on the two World Wars, the interwar period, and the establishment of the mandatory administrations in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Transjordan, and Palestine. I’ll provide a post on the Mandate in the Middle East for more information about this period this week.

Scholarship of the Modern Middle East, Post-Colonial

Longrigg, Stephen Hemsley. Syria and Lebanon under French Mandate. London: Oxford University Press, 1958.

We’re doing something a bit unique at the beginning of the quarter where each student picks a different book to read each week (not sure if this will continue beyond these first two weeks). The authors of these books were, in some way, involved in European occupation of the Middle East from the late 19th century to the interwar period. An interesting variety were presented last week, from a British Zionist to Lord Cromer, and the book I selected by Longrigg.

Though Longrigg’s first relationship with the Middle East was through his service in Iraq during the First World War and then as a British mandatory official there, and later worked for the Iraq Petroleum Company, he wrote this book as a 15-year retrospective on the French mandate in Syria and Lebanon, examining the legacy of the mandate generally. His purpose is manifold: he wants to counter the notion that the British had any acquisitive interests in the region during the period (this was, apparently, a great issue based on the vehemence with which he denies it throughout the work); he wants to show the possibilities and problems of mandatory administration; and he wants to support the notion of the mandate at a time where historical perspective has perhaps painted it with a rather bad brush. These purposes are weaved throughout the work and are part of the overarching thesis that, in spite of the many and positive contributions of the French to the mandatory and post-mandatory state (most of which have been overlooked by detractors of the mandate and of people in the region), the project was ultimately a failure due to the implementation of an administration that refused to acknowledge and adapt to local political and societal circumstances.

Works such as Longrigg’s provide the historian with first-hand accounts of the intentions, beliefs, and worldviews of those involved in the Mandatory system implemented in the Middle East in the aftermath of World War I in the former Ottoman Empire.

French Revolution, 1789-1815

Week 2 offered a continuation of the discussion on the social, ideological, political, and economic realities of France in the years immediately preceding the Revolution in 1789. To drive this point home, the class was assigned several primary documents that revealed the various currents of thought proliferating at the time, and we watched the 1988 film, Dangerous Liaisons, based on the novel Les liaisons dangereuses, written by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos in 1782.

Week 5 Roll Call

Hi all. Here are the readings from last week, week 5. All caught up!

Historical Scholarship of the Modern Middle East, Late Ottoman Empire
Topic: The Ottoman Empire and world capitalism

Emrence, Cem. “Three Waves of Late Ottoman Historiography, 1950-2007.” Middle East Studies Association Bulletin 41, no. 2 (Winter 2007): 137-151.

Summary: This study examines three waves in the historiography of the late Ottoman Empire. These waves are modernization approaches (1950s-1970s), macro models (1970s-1980s), and post-structural agendas (1990s-2007). The future of late Ottoman historiography lies is addressing two unanswered questions: that Ottoman studies has thus far been dominated by, first, mono-causal approaches (meaning that historians are still looking for a single cause for Ottoman social transformation in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and, second, by “propensity accounts” (these emphasize the active and purposeful role of the Ottoman state and local elite in social formation).

Kasaba, Reşat. The Ottoman Empire and the World Economy: The Nineteenth Century. Albany: SUNY Press, 1988.

Summary: Kasaba challenges the traditional nineteenth century paradigm that looks at military decline and societal improvement during that period as disparate processes. The author brings these concurrent processes in relation to each other and demonstrates that they were intertwined, simultaneous aspects of broader process related to the integration of the Ottoman Empire into the capitalist world economy.

Pamuk, Şevket. “Institutional Change and the Longevity of the Ottoman Empire.” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 35, no. 2 (2004): 225-247.

Summary: Pamuk suggests that though the central bureaucracy of the Ottoman Empire was inherently pragmatic and flexible, as shown by its successful expansion and ability to survive into the modern period when others like it were not, its innovation was limited to those institutions that maintained the traditional order and Ottoman power. The result was that changes enacted by the state didn’t allow for its entrance into capitalist economic development or other new forms of economic organization. The inability of the empire to do this led to its disintegration.

Historical Studies of Women and Gender
Topic: History of manhood and masculinity

Beattie, Peter. “Beyond Machismos: Recent Examinations of Masculinities in Latin America.” Men and Masculinities 4 (2002): 303-308.

Summary: In this article, Beattie examines anthropological and literary studies of Latin American conceptions of masculinity and machismo. In his analysis of these studies, the author concludes that these works reveal how masculinity and machismo are “complex and malleable concepts that invite contestation and reinterpretation by individuals, groups, and scholars,” (303) charting new grounds in discussions of gender identity.

Basso, Matthew. Meet Joe Copper: Masculinity and Race on Montana’s World War II Home Front. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013.

Summary: This works examines the home front World War II experience of copper miners in three mining towns in Montana. Through the author’s analysis of their actions, he posits that these coppermen actively challenged the sacrificial masculinity propagated by the federal government and instead clung to their white working class masculinity evidenced by their refusal to work with females and men of color. This (white) working man’s masculinity played a role in the formation of conservative post-war masculinities.

Ditz, Toby. “The New Men’s History and the Peculiar Absence of Gendered Power: Some Remedies from Early American Gender History.” Gender & History 16, no. 1 (April 2004): 1-35.

Summary: In this article, Ditz points out some of the problems male and masculinity studies have confronted since its inception in the 1990s – namely, that many studies of masculinity do not address the nature of gendered power that inherently creates male-ness in contrast to and in dominance over female-ness. She proposes five potentially problematic aspects of masculinity studies and then provides a historiographical overview of early American history showing the ways in which these problems can be avoided.

Sinha, Mrinalini. “Giving Masculinity a History: Some Contributions from the Historiography of Colonial India.” Gender & History 11, no. 3 (1999): 445-460.

Summary: Through a historiographical examination of colonial Indian historiography on gender, Sinha posits that this historiography offers a useful and necessary contribution to the study of masculinity. This is the case because historical studies of gender and masculinity during the colonial period put power at the center of its analyses, thus necessitating a reconsideration of bodily difference, making visible the relational construction of masculinity and the anxieties inherent to that construction, as well as its construction in relation to its ideological and material context.

Week 4 Roll Call

Week 4 here. Week 5 upcoming. Next week is week 6…where has the time gone?!?!

Historical Scholarship of the Modern Middle East, Late Ottoman Empire
Topic: Nineteenth century reform

Fahmy, Khalid. “The Era of Muhammad ‘Ali Pasha, 1805-1848.” In M. W. Daly, ed., The Cambridge History of Egypt: Modern Egypt, from 1517 to the End of the Twentieth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998: 139-179.
Summary: This article examines the ascent, rule, and legacy of the reign of Muhammad ‘Ali Pasha in Ottoman Egypt. Based on his legacy, the author concludes by suggesting that Muhammad ‘Ali can be considered the father of modern Egypt.

Ma’oz, Moshe. Ottoman Reform in Syria and Palestine. Oxford: Clarendon, 1968.
Summary: This work focuses on the application and effect of the Tanzimat reforms between 1840 and 1861 in the Ottoman Arab provinces of Aleppo, Damascus, Sidon, Syria, and Palestine.

Historical Studies of Women and Gender
Topic: Foucault and the history of sexuality

Bem, Sandra Lipsitz. “Dismantling Gender Polarization and Compulsory Heterosexuality: Should We Turn the Volume Down or Up?” The Journal of Sex Research 32, no. 4 (1995): 329-334.
Summary: In this article, Bem reverses her previous thinking on reversing the dichotomization of gender and the primacy of heterosexuality by suggesting that what is instead needed is an explosion and proliferation of categories of sex/gender/desire so that the binaries that currently dominate Western culture can be dismantled and replaced with a spectrum of sex/gender/desire possibilities.

Coffin, Judith G. “Beauvoir, Kinsey, and Mid-Century Sex.” French Politics, Culture & Society 28, no. 2 (Summer 2010): 18-37.
Summary: The author argues that a re-contextualization of the pairing of the works of Simone deBeauvoir and Alfred Kinsey by their scholarly contemporaries in the late 1940s and early 1950s reveals the tensions inherent to questions of sexuality and sexual politics during that period.

Foucault, Michel. History of Sexuality: An Introduction, vol. 1. New York: Vintage Press, 1990: 1-50.
Summary: In this section of his groundbreaking work, Foucault tackles the “repression hypothesis,” the acceptance of sexual repression in the modern era in the Western world as a fact that stems from this hypothesis, and the notion that such repression stems from the development of a capitalist world economy in which sex outside of its reproductive capacity serves no purpose and is thus repressed. In this section, he suggests, instead, that discourse(s) on sexuality(ies) proliferated and became normalized throughout the nineteenth century, allowing for the possibility of a multiplicity of (“acceptable” and “perverse”) sexualities.

Henry, Todd A. “Between Surveillance and Liberation: The Lives of Cross-Dressed Male Sex Workers in Early Postwar Japan.” In Susan Stryker and Aren Aizura, eds., The Transgender Studies Reader, vol. 2. London: Routledge, 2013: 399-413.
Summary: In this article, Henry examines popular and personal perceptions of crossed-dressed male sex workers in post-World War II U.S.-occupied Japan. He suggests that such an analysis reveals the ways in which identities were created in their local context and in response to local pressures and exigencies. It also provides a helpful case study for an examination of developments since the 1990s in an increasingly globalized transgender studies.

Morantz-Sanchez, Regina. “Feminist Theory and Historical Practice: Rereading Elizabeth Blackwell.” History and Theory 31, no. 4 (Dec 1992): 51-69.
Summary: In this article, Morantz-Sancez re-examines the works of Elizabeth Blackwell, an American mid-nineteenth-century female physician, through the lens of social constructivist theories of science. Through such an analysis, it becomes evident that not only did Blackwell criticize the increasingly masculine domain of objective science, but that her works foreshadow the discourse of twentieth-century female philosophers and thinkers on science.

Morantz, Regina Markell. “The Scientist as Sex Crusader: Alfred C. Kinsey and American Culture.” American Quarterly 29, no. 5 (Winter 1977): 563-589.
Summary: In this article, the author examines the significance of the study of human sexuality undertaken by Alfred Kinsey in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Morantz suggests that, even though Kinsey himself was not a revolutionary, his work was and continues to be innovative for its treatment of human sexuality and the larger cultural meaning and implications it engenders.

How’s the mid-quarter/early semester/early February going for everyone else?