[P4754] The Allure of the Mundane: What to Do with the Micro and the Daily in Middle East History?

Created by Lucia Carminati
Sunday, 11/19/17 8:00am


In a 2011 article, Laila Parsons argued that Middle East scholarship, at least the one focusing on the Mashreq, has produced very few micro-narratives whose protagonists are individuals from the region and which take as their starting point the prosaic concerns of daily life. She explained this by adducing, among other factors, the historians' tendency to locate the words and actions of historical actors into one or more of three macroscopic themes: colonialism, nationalism, and modernity. In contrast, only a handful of Middle East historians has so far taken the more prosaic and microscopic concerns of daily life as their starting points.

This panel takes stock of the "allure of the mundane." It aims at starting a conversation on the charm exercised by micro-histories, while also methodologically explaining and justifying their validity. Big questions still need to be asked. Macro-conversations are still necessary within the discipline at large. And micro-historians still have to make their voices heard in broader debates. This panel hence asks: how can the micro and macro be seamlessly re-connected in historical writing? Can we rethink of them as mutually constituted rather than as mutually exclusive?

This panel attempts to answer these questions by focusing on a number of different historical actors who trekked along local, regional, and global circuits. Their movements spun the Balkans, the Middle East, and India. In their lives, microscopic and daily levels of experience were intertwined with events of macroscopic bearing. The four presenters will formulate answers and will ask their own questions regarding the potential and the pitfalls of micro and daily histories of the Middle East writ large.

This panel will also linger on the specific challenges that the available sources pose to those historians who are interested in reconciling the micro and the macro in their research. How can specific types of sources facilitate or hinder the investigative work that Carlo Ginzburg compellingly associated with micro-history-writing? How to interrogate an archive that is sparing in details? What to do with an archive that, on the contrary, inundates the researcher with particulars? Presenters will reflect on their specific source bases and bring their own experiences into a timely conversation on the issue of scale in Middle East history.





Julia Clancy-Smith

(University of Arizona)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair;

Farzin Vejdani

(Ryerson University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Discussant;

Secil Uluisik

(University of Arizona)
I am an advanced PhD Candidate with a Major in Middle East History and a minor in Comparative History at the University of Arizona. Currently, I am based in Vienna, Austria as a research fellow at the Austrian Academy of Sciences for the project titled...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Ali Atabey

(University of Arizona)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Lucia Carminati

(University of Arizona)
I am a PhD Candidate at the History department of the University of Arizona. My dissertation is provisionally titled "Port Said, 1859-1922: Migration, Urbanization, and Empire" and traces the social and cultural history of the Egyptian and Mediterranean...
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Tania Bhattacharyya

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