[P6473] Localizing the Imperial: Histories of Northeast Africa in the 19th Century

Created by Lacy Feigh
Tuesday, 11/30/21 11:30 am


Over the past twenty years, scholars have challenged how we think about the invisible boundaries between Africa and the Middle East and the empires which bind them together. In the nineteenth century, the conflicts and relationships in the Nile Valley reflected the deep ties between individuals and the imperial behemoths vying for slaves, resources, and power on their shores. The expansion of the Egyptian Empire across Sudan, begun under Mehmed ‘Ali in the 1820s, accelerated in the 1860s and 70s towards the consolidating Ethiopian Empire. The Ottomans struggled to maintain footholds in Northeast Africa while European Empires sought influence wherever they could. But despite constant shifting of imperial power, these empires’ borderlands maintained local logics as nodes of knowledge production. These localities were not simply outposts of the metropole, but functioned with their own networks and hierarchies of labor, information, and ideas of belonging. Area studies, arbitrarily separating the Middle East from Africa, obscures the centrality of these localized spaces to empire-building and collapse.

These papers reorient the local within imperial knowledge production. “More than Local, Less than Global” uses the investigation into the mysterious death of former French consul and merchant Henri Lambert in 1859 to illuminate growing tensions and rivalries in, and connections between, the Horn of Africa and Gulf of Aden. It brings together the Ottomans, French, British and Afar and Somali notables. “Builders of Empires” turns to the Ethiopian-Egyptian borderlands in the second half of the nineteenth century. It shows how Orientalist literature, and the empires depicted within, depended on enslaved labor and knowledge for expansion and consolidation. “News from Gundet” examines information on and from the Sudan-Ethiopia frontier as it shifted from a locus of optimism for the Egyptian Empire to one of humiliation in the mid-1870s. It considers the region’s place in imperial imaginaries, the material ways the region was connected and disconnected from the empire, and what this meant for people who lived there. “Imagining the Black Arabs of Tarikh Al-Sudan” brings to the fore the formative role that Ottoman-Egyptian rule in Sudan played in informing the Anglo-Egyptian colonizing scheme. It locates racial formations of early twentieth-century Sudan within Ottoman-Egyptian colonial mediators’ reliance on local ways of knowing and indigenous forms of anti-Blackness rooted in the concept of genealogy (nasba) as an instrument of social order.






Eve Troutt Powell

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

Amal Ghazal

(Doha Institute for Graduate Studies)
Associate Professor, Department of History, Simon Fraser University. Director, Centre for the Comparative Study of Muslim Societies and Cultures at Simon Fraser University.
Panel Participating Role(s): Discussant;

Özgül Özdemir

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

Chloe Bordewich

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

Lacy Feigh

(University of Pennsylvania)
Lacy Feigh is a PhD Candidate in the History Department at the University of Pennsylvania. Her dissertation, entitled "'As Pretty As an Abyssinian Girl Could Be': Race and Empire in the Nile Valley," examines histories of enslavement and legacies of racial...
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Bayan Abubakr

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