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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Last modified: Thursday, May 5, 2011

American Historical Review: Territorialization in the Middle East and articles on the senses

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May 5, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The borders of British and French Mandate nation-states of the Middle East didn't restrain the movements of Abud Yasin in the years leading up to World War II. He shows up repeatedly in French intelligence accounts, smuggling hashish and opium from Lebanon and Syria through Palestine to Egypt. Cornered by police, shot at, arrested and jailed, he would be back in business a few years later.

"Yasin's life was adventurous, but not exceptional," Cyrus Schayegh writes in the latest issue of The American Historical Review. "In the post-Ottoman Levant, a wide range of people were involved in what officials called 'smuggling' across and beyond the borders of the new states of French Mandatory Lebanon and Syria and British Mandatory Palestine and Transjordan."

In "The Many Worlds of Abud Yasin; or, What Narcotics Trafficking in the Interwar Middle East Can Tell Us about Territorialization," Schayegh elucidates the geographic scales -- local, national, transnational and international -- that were at play after the breakup of the Ottoman Empire. The approach highlights multiple historical actors and processes that tend to be overlooked when historians focus primarily on either the nation-state or the global scale.

"To historians of the modern Middle East, certainly, the story of Yasin and company shows the limits of thinking along nation-state lines alone," writes Schayegh, an assistant professor of Modern Middle Eastern Studies at Princeton University. He argues that "in the countries that rose from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, social networks -- some of them very local, others quite far-flung -- that now became transnational helped to shape the development of the Levantine region and its new polities."

The American Historical Review is the official publication of the American Historical Association. Its editorial offices are at Indiana University Bloomington. The April 2011 issue also includes six articles on "The Senses in History":

The American Historical Review is published five times a year by University of Chicago Press. More information is available at the AHR website,

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