[R4748] Conducting Archival Research in MENA: Current Challenges, Creative Solutions

Created by Kate Dannies
Monday, 11/20/17 8:00am


The escalation of conflict and instability in the Middle East during the past decade has transformed the research landscape in the region, presenting impediments to historical scholarship. In this context, mainstays of archival research such as Egypt and Turkey present new challenges for researchers, while other sites have become all but inaccessible. This roundtable will address current research conditions in the Middle East from the perspective of PhD candidates recently returned from conducting research for modern history dissertations in a variety of locations, including Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, and in a variety of institutional settings from central state archives to smaller private collections and religious institutions. The discussion will focus on candidates’ experiences doing archival research in the region in the current context of political instability, how challenges to access have shaped their ability to carry out their projects, and the creative solutions and workarounds they employed to complete their archival work. The roundtable will also address the broader question of how the rapidly changing security situation and socio-political landscape in many countries in the region is shaping the research agenda in the field of Middle East history particularly in terms of geographic focus and the ability to tackle controversial topics. The purpose of the conversation is to engage those interested in current research conditions, particularly graduate students planning their dissertation projects and more advanced scholars planning a return to a changed research field. In many countries in the region, access to archives is haphazard and contingent, and information about best practices and preparation is spread by word of mouth. This roundtable is intended to broaden this conversation to a wider audience. The conversation will explore the practicalities of archival access, asking how language skills, gender, and the ethnic/religious/national backgrounds of research might shape access to sources; how requirements for access to archives have changed and what new preparation needs to be done to facilitate research; what topics are particularly sensitive or problematic under current circumstances; and what alternatives to archival research in the Middle East exist for historians of the region. This roundtable will offer a space for Middle East historians to openly discuss the challenges and considerations associated with archival research at the present time, and brainstorm solutions and strategies for facilitating scholarship on a wide variety of topics and geographies into the future.






Kate Dannies

(Georgetown University)
Kate Dannies is a PhD candidate in history at Georgetown University. Her research interests center on gender, family, institutions, and conflict during the Late Ottoman period. Her dissertation, “Breadwinner Soldiers: Gender, Welfare, and Citizenship...
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer;

Nova Robinson

(Seattle University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair;

Anny Gaul

(Georgetown University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Matthew MacLean

(New York University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Belle Cheves

(Harvard University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Benan Grams

(Georgetown University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;