Arabic and its Alternatives: Religious minorities and their languages in the emerging nation states of the Middle East (1920-1950)
- 15 June 2016 - 17 June 2016
From 15 until 17 June, the Research Project ‘Arabic and its Alternative’, will organize its final conference entitled ‘Arabic and its Alternatives: Religious minorities and their languages in the emerging nation states of the Middle East (1920-1950)’. This conference includes an opening lecture by Cyrus Schayegh (Princeton University), several academic presentations, and a policy session. We warmly invite people to join us for the opening lecture and the academic sessions. Registration is advised for all sessions, including the opening session and the policy session, via AAIAConference@hum.leidenuniv.nl. Note that for the academic sessions, space is limited, so participation is possible on first come, first serve basis.
Venue & Time:
- 15 June: Opening Lecture, Academy Building, Klein Auditorium ( Leiden), 16:00-18:30 hours
- 16 June: Academic Sessions, Leiden University Library, Heinsiuszaal (Leiden), 09:30-18:00 hours
- 17 June: Academic Sessions, Stichthage, Bernoorderhoutzaal (The Hague), 09:30-12:45 hours
- 17 June: Policy Session: Stichthage, Bernoorderhoutzaal (The Hague), 15:00-17:00 hours
In the years following the First World War, Christians and Jews were forced to rethink their position within the newly emerging political context. Before the war (and for some even during and immediately after the war), Ottomanism and Ottoman citizenship had seemed an attractive alternative to the earlier state built on the legal separation between Muslims and others in the so-called millet system as it had developed earlier in the nineteenth century. The war brought an end to the Ottoman Empire, whereas the genocide on Armenian and Syriac Christians had revealed the harsh edges of Turkish nationalism. Arab nationalism seemed like a more promising alternative, especially for those Christians and Jews that used Arabic in one form or another in their daily lives: as a vernacular or as a written language, for communication within and outside their communities. Within these communities, however, at the same time other loyalties vied for prominence, loyalties that could not be easily reconciled with that of pan-Arab or Arab-based nationalisms, such as those to the British and French Mandate governments, or to the separatist nationalisms of the Zionists, Armenians and Assyrians.
The conference is part of a research project that has been working along these lines on the study and comparison of communal literary and linguistic practices of three groups, all in (post-) British Mandate contexts, that of the Catholic (‘Latin’) Christians of Jerusalem, the Syriac (Assyrian/Syriac/Chaldean) Christians of North Iraq and the Jews of Baghdad. Some early results will be published in the volume Common Ground: Jews and Christians in the Modern Middle East (Goldstein, Murre-van den Berg, scheduled to be published in 2016).
- Konstantinos Papasthatis, Research Unit: IPSE/ Université du Luxembourg
- Leyla Dakhli, French Center for National Research (CNRS)
- Ori Shachmon, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
- Liora Halperin, University of Colorado Boulder
- Michiel Leezenberg, University of Amsterdam
- Daphne Tsimhoni, The Technion - Israel Institute of Technology
- Emmanuel Szurek, EHESS
- Merav Mack, The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute
- Peter Wien, University of Maryland, College Park
- Robert Isaf, Graduate Bard College
- Kefah Najjar, Baghdad University
- Otared Haidar, University of Oxford
- Franck Salameh: Boston College
- Professor Dr Heleen Murre-van den Berg (IVOC/FTR, Radboud University Nijmegen)
- Dr Karène Sanchez (LUCL, Leiden University)
- Sasha Goldstein-Sabah (LIAS-LUCSOR, Leiden University)
- Tijmen Baarda (LIAS-LUCSOR, Leiden University)
- Farah Bazzi (LIAS, Leiden University)
Policy Session: Post-Arab nationalisms: what is the future of religious and linguistic minorities in the Arab Middle East?
Friday 17 June: Stichthage, Bernoorderhoutzaal, 15:00-17 hours
The events of the past five years have underlined the fact that the time of Arab nationalism is over. Whether in the form of its pan-Arab or its nation-state variety, it has failed to provide a viable and stable alternative to the colonial structures that preceded it, be they Ottoman, British or French. It similarly failed to address the tensions between Arabs and non-Arabs in the Middle East and it has not been able to solve the inequality between Muslims and non-Muslims, also when non-Muslims identified as Arabs first and foremost. None of the alternatives, however, building on autocratic military rule or on Islamist ideologies, have contributed to such a stable society.
The policy part of the conference that engages with current issues intends to continue the discussion of the academic sessions that addressed the development towards Arab nationalism in the period between the two World Wars, when the mandate governments backed by the League of Nations constituted the major political power in the region.
Questions for the policy session:
Which elements of the earlier and existing state forms in the Middle East should be used as a basis for state building in the coming years?
- How do the ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities in the region perceive their own situation and how do you as policy makers expect the current developments to play out in the near future and what policy measures will guarantee this?
- If and when the current crisis leads to the dissolution of the states of Syria and Iraq, what would that mean for those minorities that are too small or too dispersed to be able to create their own autonomous region?
- How can outside actors (other states, NGO’s, churches) be involved in and contribute to the amelioration of the position of religious minorities without losing sight of the rightful demands of other minorities and the majority.