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The Middle East's Global Ecologies: From the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean World

Thu, March 15, 8:30 to 10:00am, Riverside Convention Center, MR 8

Session Submission Type: Panel


One of the glaring weaknesses in the development of global environmental history thus far has been its relative neglect of the Middle East’s position within broader inter-regional and global narratives. Just as the ecosystems of Anatolia, Egypt, Iraq, Iran and Syria were affected by one another, Middle Eastern ecologies were also embedded in still wider climatic, hydrologic, and disease patterns stretching well beyond the region. For a better understanding of the interactions between regional and global scales, this panel aims to situate the Middle East within the broader climatic and environmental histories of the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean worlds of the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.

By focusing on the climatic and environmental shifts in the age of high imperialism, this panel seeks to answer the following questions: What kinds of inter-regional climatic crises occurred? How might these crises alter more conventional narratives of social, political, and economic change in the region? How did these crises affect different environmental and economic modes of subsistence, particularly agrarian and herding societies? What kinds of coping strategies did these populations develop and deploy? How did struggles over limited natural resources like soil, water, and animals transform historical modes of subsistence and statecraft?

In addition to considering how climates and ecologies in the Middle East affected human and animal populations, this panel aims to understand why and how the Ottoman and Qajar states contested and adapted to broader European imperial ecologies. In this sense, the panel seeks to capture the interplay between natural and human causes of climatic and epidemic crises by asking how imperial competition over the region either induced or exacerbated the intensity of these events? Likewise, it considers how states reorganized themselves and deployed industrial technologies to access and exploit new natural resources like coal and oil.

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