[P3021] Remembering the First World War in the Middle East

Created by Pheroze Unwalla
Saturday, 11/17/12 5:30pm


The First World War is considered by many to be the pivotal episode in the formation of the modern Middle East. From the diplomatic wrangling between regional actors to the creation of new boundaries and nation-states to the publication of fateful treaties and communiques, multiple studies have investigated the greater chronicles and finer details of the war and pointed to its impact on the present circumstances of the region. Yet, as the centennial of the 'Great War' approaches and a number of European and North American locales plan grandiose memorial ceremonies, it behooves us to also consider how the nations and peoples of the Middle East have remembered and looked back upon the war. Consequently, this panel seeks to understand what the First World War has meant to the Middle East in retrospect.

The four papers in this panel respectively analyze instances, episodes, and cultures of remembrance in Syria, Palestine, Turkey and the former Ottoman Empire through, at turns, the use of archival documents, memoirs, oral narratives, textbooks, and other sources. The geographical and methodological diversity of this panel endeavors to illustrate differences in remembrance between various milieus during different eras, but also seeks to ascertain whether common ground between sundry nations and peoples across the Middle East can be found. Beyond simply describing what people in the Middle East have remembered of the First World War, we will attempt to answer several significant questions: What role have memories of the war played in molding the respective historiographies and popular cultures of the Middle East and vice versa? What function, if any, have state and elite actors had in facilitating remembrance of the war, and to what end? How have grassroots and/or private instances of remembrance infiltrated or been barred from public and/or state discourses? Which events within the war era have been privileged as more or less worthy of remembrance than others and why?

By exploring these questions and others, this panel hopes to move beyond the question of how the war helped create the political boundaries of the modern Middle East to a discussion on what significance the war holds for the peoples, nations, and cultures of the region.





Benjamin Carr Fortna

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

Pheroze Unwalla

(University of British Columbia)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;