The Globalization of Science in the Middle East and North Africa, 18th-20th Centuries

SunfishNow online! Carla Nappi's Keynote Address
Look at the Fish: Decomposing Global Histories of Science
Watch the video»

MARCH 24-25, 2017

This conference brings together scholars from the Middle East, Europe, the United States, and Canada to explore important issues related to the history of science in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region during the 18th-20th centuries—a critical period of change and modernization when Middle Easterners were concerned about the rising power of European states and societies and the weakness of Islamic ones in relation to them. Conference participants will present papers which consider the nature of encounters between Islamic societies and the west as the balance of power between these regions shifted in the favor of Europe, including the role of science in modernization and development in the MENA region, the relationship between modern science and religion (Islam), the effects of European imperialism on the spread of modern science in the MENA (and the Global South more generally), and the use of science and technology by MENA states and societies to combat foreign domination in the region.

This conference has been organized by Sahar Bazzaz, College of the Holy Cross, and Jane Murphy, Colorado College. It is sponsored by the McFarland Center and funded by the Rehm Family Fund.

Publication Now Available

Re-examining Globalization and the History of Science: Ottoman and Middle Eastern Experiences

Special Issue, British Journal for the History of Science (open access)
Edited by Jane H. Murphy and Sahar Bazzaz
November 2022, Cambridge University Press


FRIDAY, MARCH 24, 2017

9:30 a.m.: Welcome and Introductions
Tom Landy, director of the McFarland Center at Holy Cross; Sahar Bazzaz, associate professor of history and advisor for Middle Eastern Studies at Holy Cross; and Jane Murphy,  associate professor of history, Colorado College

10 a.m.-Noon: Session 1: Perception & Translation
Aaron Shakow, Discussant
Director of the Initiative on Healing and Humanity, Harvard Medical School’s Center for Global Health Delivery—Dubai

Doubled Selves or Separate Worlds?: L. Ferdinando Marsigli and Ottoman Intellectuals in Constantinople (1679)
Duygu Yildirim
Ph.D. student, Department of History at Stanford University and visiting fellow, Department of the History of Science at Harvard University

Innovations from the Levant: Smallpox Inoculation and Perceptions of Scientific Medicine
Victoria N. Meyer
Assistant professor of history, University of Arizona

Updating Ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddimah: Ahmed Cevdet’s Ottoman Turkish Translation of the Sixth Chapter
Kenan Tekin
Ph.D. in Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies, Columbia University
Dissertation: “Reforming categories of science and religion in the late Ottoman empire”

Noon-1:30 p.m.: Lunch

1:30-3:30 p.m.: Session 2: Theories and Practices
M. Alper Yalcinkaya, discussant
Research fellow, Carlos III University of Madrid
Author, "Learned Patriots: Debating Science, State, and Society in the Nineteenth Century Ottoman Empire" (University of Chicago Press, 2015)

‘Strange Sciences’: Close Reading Meets Network Analysis of al-‘ulum al-Ghariba in the 18th and Early 19th Centuries 
Jane Murphy 
Associate professor of history, Colorado College

When Geology Clashes with the Bible: Ottoman Historians Discuss the Creation Account
Hakan Karateke
Professor of Ottoman and Turkish culture, language and literature and director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, University of Chicago

“Let Everything Useful be Permitted”: Daghestani Modernity and the Technological Sublime 
Rebecca Gould
Reader, comparative literature and translation studies, University of Bristol (UK)
Author, "Writers and Rebels: The Literatures of Insurgency in the Caucasus" (Yale University Press, 2016)

Carla Nappi4:30-6 p.m.: KEYNOTE ADDRESS: “Look at the Fish: Decomposing Global Histories of Science”
Carla Nappi
Associate professor of history and Canada Research Chair in Early Modern Studies, University of British Columbia
Watch the video»


9:30-11:30 a.m.: Session 3: Producing and Institutionalizing Knowledge
Marwa Elshakry, discussant
Associate professor of history, Columbia University

Global Thermodynamics
On Barak
Senior lecturer, Department of Middle Eastern & African History, Tel Aviv University
Author, "On Time: Technology and Temporality in Modern Egypt" (University of California Press, 2013)

Ottoman Debt as a Problem of Knowledge
Daniel Stolz
Visiting assistant professor of history, Northwestern University

Figuring the Egyptian Endemic: The Endemic Disease Section of the Egyptian Ministry of Public Health and the formulation of tropical medicine, 1928-1944
Jennifer L. Derr
Assistant professor of history, University of California, Santa Cruz

11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.: Lunch

1-3 p.m.: Session 4: Creating & Crossing Boundaries
Sahar Bazzaz, discussant
Associate professor of history, College of the Holy Cross

The Wise Women and Winifred: Fertility Talismans and the Magical Role of Ethnographic Collections in Interwar Egypt
Taylor Moore
Ph.D. candidate specializing in Modern Middle Eastern History, Rutgers University

Outposts of Western Science? Building Genetic Laboratories in Lebanon and Israel in the 1960s
Elise K. Burton
Ph.D. candidate, joint program for history and Middle Eastern studies, Harvard University

Archaeological Circulations: Egypt, India and Scientific Geographies in the Early Cold War
William Carruthers
Gerda Henkel Stiftung Research Scholar and visiting guest scholar, German Historical Institute London

3:30-5 p.m.: Discussion of posters