Cosmopolitanism: questioning difference, toleration, and conflict

History 103M.001

Fall 2017
2231 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
Th 10-12
Class Number: 

This reading seminar will examine the theme of cosmopolitanism in writing the history of the modern Middle East and eastern Mediterranean (c. 1750-present). A rich literature on cosmopolitanism in the Middle East focuses on some of the region's earliest and most dynamic sites of modern transformation. These transformations had dramatically uneven consequences that continue to shape the region's position in the global order to this day. While cosmopolitan ideals emphasize diversity, tolerance, and "global citizenship," the study of cosmopolitanism necessarily overlaps with many of the darkest themes of modern Middle Eastern history: the rise of nation-states and competing nationalisms, ethnic cleansing, colonialism and decolonization, and persistent and rising economic inequality. This course will consider how attention to cosmopolitan spaces, social groups, and activities (for example, port cities, the bourgeoisie, and middle class politics) has shaped historical writing on the Middle East in recent decades. This includes close attention to how the cosmopolitan lens has obscured (or denigrated) other forms of human activity and experience (the working class, rural migrants, or the role of religion, especially Islam, in modern political culture). Weekly readings and discussions will focus on the rise of port cities like Beirut, Alexandria, Izmir, and Salonica; the impact of western capitalism and colonialism in the Ottoman Empire and successor states; bourgeois society and sociability; co-existence and conflict between ethnic and religious minorities; political debates about sovereignty, subjecthood, and citizenship; and imperial and national efforts (and failures) to manage diverse populations.