Bisan Lecture by Prof. Salim Tamari, “Autobiographic Narratives of the Great War and the Creation of the New Middle East”

| Scientists for Palestine |

The first Bisan Lecture webinar of the new academic year will take place on Wednesday, September 14 at 7pm Palestine time (6pm Central European Time, 12 noon US Estern time). The preeminent Palestinian historical sociologist, Prof. Salim Tamari (Birzeit University and Institute for Palestine Studies) will speak on “Autobiographic Narratives of the Great War and the Creation of the New Middle East.”


The BLS Steering Committee stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people, as they suffer through and confront an apparently endless and systematic string of attacks on their human rights. Most recently, in early August 2022, in defiance of international law and humanitarian norms, Israel launched yet another assault on the people of Gaza, whom they have imprisoned with a crippling blockade for the past 15 years. The assault killed at least 46 Gazans, including 16 children. We strongly condemn these war crimes, along with the complicity of the community of nations that continues to allow them to occur.

We are pleased to announce that the first Bisan Lecture webinar of the new academic year will take place on Wednesday, September 14 at 7pm Palestine time (6pm Central European Time, 12 noon US Estern time). We will have the pleasure to welcome Prof. Salim Tamari (Birzeit University and Institute for Palestine Studies) who will speak on

Title: Autobiographic Narratives of the Great War and the Creation of the New Middle East

You can register for the event on Zoom here

Abstract: The Great War on the Eastern Front, looked at from the passage of one century, led to major transformations in the way in which the people of the region – from the Ottoman capital of Istanbul to the Arab provinces of the Empire – looked at themselves and at the world. What I propose to do is to see how the war and the fighting were reflected in the biographical trajectories of soldiers who fought in it and civilians who endured it, and how the war affected the transformation of their lives and the reshaping of their identity and affiliations during and after the war.

The war was so devastating that, according to contemporary accounts, it took a toll of one-sixth of the total population of greater Syria—one of the highest among all war fronts during that period. In this presentation, I will examine this great transformation through the lives of three civilians and three soldiers whose life trajectories marked the transition from Ottomanism to the new Middle East of Arab and Turkish nationalism. The writers include Khalil Sakakini, who kept a diary during the war in Jerusalem. His account is riveting in that it captured a vivid portrait for the desolation of the city in 1915 and 1916, the famine years. Muhammad Kurd Ali’s Damascene memoirs include his period as a publicist, some critics would say apologist, for the excesses of Jamal and Anwar (Enver) Pashas in Syria and Palestine. The most important fictional work to come out of the Great War in Arabic is The Life of Mifleh al Ghassani (1921) by the Palestinian writer and journalist, Najib Nassar, whose the novella is a thinly disguised autobiographical war memoir of the author, who spent 1916-1917 hiding from the Turkish gendarmes in the Bedouin encampments of the Jordan Valley.

You can register for the event on Zoom here

Salim Tamari is currently Professor of Sociology (Emeritus) at Birzeit University, Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Palestine Studies, and editor of The Jerusalem Quarterly. Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University, has called Salim Tamari “the preeminent Palestinian historical sociologist.”

Salim Tamari holds a Ph.D. from Manchester University and has been a visiting faculty members in several universities in Europe and the United States over the years, including: Ca Foscari University, Venice; the University of California, Berkeley; Georgetown University; New York University; Cornell University; the University of Chicago; Harvard University; and Columbia University.

Drawing upon archival materials and personal diaries, Salim Tamari has produced numerous studies documenting and analyzing Palestinian society. His recent books include: Mountain Against the Sea: A Conflicted Modernity (2008), Year of the Locust: Erasure of the Ottoman Era in Palestine (2011), The Great War and the Remaking of Palestine (2018), and Landed Property and Public Endowments in Jerusalem (with Munir Fakhr Ed Din, 2018).

Salim Tamari’s awards include the 2018 Middle East Monitor Prize for his book The Great War and the Remaking of Palestine and the 2017 State of Palestine Prize for Lifetime Achievements in the social sciences and humanities.

This lecture is sponsored by theBisan Center for Research and Development, Scientists for Palestine and the Center for Palestinian Studies of Columbia University

Hoping to see many of you at this webinar, we send you our best regards.

The Bisan Lecture Series Steering Committee

Next BLS webinar

- Wednesday October 12, 2022, 7 pm Palestine time

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- Wednesday November 9, 2022, 6 pm or 7 pm Palestine time 

Prof. Esther Duflo (MIT, Nobel laureate in Economic Sciences in 2019)

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- Wednesday December 14, 2022, 7 pm Palestine time 

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- Wednesday January 11, 2023, 7 pm Palestine time  

Prof. Mahmood Mamdani (Columbia University)

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- Wednesday March 8, 2023, 7 pm Palestine time

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- Wednesday April 12, 2023, 7 pm Palestine time

Prof. Mark Smith (University of Missouri)

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BLS Statement of purpose

In concert with Scientists for Palestine and the Bisan Center for Research and Development, and in keeping with their joint commitment to full integration of Palestine in the global community of learning, the Bisan Lecture Series sponsors discourses on subjects of cultural, scientific, and societal importance by leading research experts and public intellectuals of varied heritage and viewpoint. The interactive webinars are free and open to the public, and recordings of each will be posted soon afterward.