EUME Berliner Seminar
Mi 01 Dez 2021 | 17:00–18:30

Imperial Bodies: Empire and Death in Alexandria

Shana Elizabeth Minkin (The University of the South, Sewanee) in conversation with Hussein Omar (University College Dublin), Chair: Hala Auji (American University of Beirut / EUME Fellow 2021/22)

At the turn of the twentieth century, Alexandria, Egypt, was a bustling transimperial port city, under nominal Ottoman and unofficial British imperial rule. Thousands of European subjects lived, worked, and died there. And when they died, the machinery of empire had to negotiate for space, resources, and control with the nascent national state. Imperial Bodies shows how the mechanisms of death became a tool for exerting both imperial and national governance. Shana Minkin investigates how French and British power asserted itself in Egypt through local consular claims of belonging manifested within the mundane caring for dead bodies. European communities corralled imperial bodies through the bureaucracies and rituals of death – from hospitals, funerals, and cemeteries to autopsies and death registrations. As they did so, imperial consulates pushed against the workings of both the Egyptian state and each other, expanding their governments’ material and performative power. Ultimately, this book reveals how European imperial powers did not so much claim Alexandria as their own, as they maneuvered, manipulated, and cajoled their empires into Egypt. 

Shana Minkin is Associate Professor of International and Global Studies at Sewanee: The University of the South, having earned her Ph.D. from the join History and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies program at New York University. Her book, Imperial Bodies: Empire and Death in Alexandria, Egypt, was published by Stanford University Press in 2019. She is on leave for the 2021-2022 academic year, in Berlin working on her next project, Vera-fying History: Memories of an Egyptian Jewish Life, which uses the life story of one Egyptian Jewish woman, Vera al-Karib, to probe the simultaneous belonging and internalized exile of the Egyptian Jewish community that remained in Egypt following the dispersion of the majority of the community in the 1950s. While in Berlin, Shana is an Affiliated Researcher with the Representations of the Past research unit at the Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient. 

Hussein Omar is Lecturer in Modern Global History at University College Dublin. He is a cultural and intellectual historian of the Modern Middle East and comes to UCD from Oxford University where he was an AHRC Postdoctoral Fellow as part of the ‘First World War and Global Religions’ project. His current research examines the anticolonial insurrectionary movements in Egypt and Iraq between 1919-1920. It builds on his forthcoming monograph The Rule of Strangers: Empire, Islam and the Invention of “politics” in Egypt, 1867–1922, which examined political ideas, as well as the very emergence of politics as an autonomous category, in Egypt between 1867 and 1922. He is also writing a book called City of the Dead which tells the story of Egypt and the Mediterranean world through the lives of the members of a single family over 500 years, from the Ottoman invasion of Egypt in 1517 to the 1960s.

This seminar will be held virtually via Zoom. Please register in advance via eume(at) to receive the login details.
Depending on approval by the speakers, the Berliner Seminar will be recorded. All audio recordings of the Berliner Seminar are available via SoundCloud.

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