Research Project: “Women on the Streets!” A genealogy of food riots in the Middle East, 1734–1943

Ever since the beginning of the ill-labelled Arab Spring, crowds, collective action and popular contentions have become the core of scholarly scrutiny as well as political and public discourses. Yet, the genealogy of popular participation and urban popular contentions in the Middle East remains obscure on an empirical as well as an analytical level. This research project by OIB research associate Till Grallert aims to close this gap by establishing the genealogy of a specific contentious repertoire, the urban food riot between the 18th and 20th centuries in the Eastern Mediterranean. It provides empirical traces of the commonly invisible commoners, the Everyman and—even more importantly—the Everywoman of Middle Eastern urban societies during the emergence of the paradigm of modernity. The very focus on food riots provides a unique glimpse into this otherwise invisible poor majority of society, who did not leave material traces of their own, but surface only when they contested the hegemony of the ruling (and record-keeping) strata. Continue reading

Cluster: Processes of Transformation in Urban and Rural Societies

A miller in Nahr Ustuwan, Lebanon © Stephen McPhillips

The projects in this research cluster share a focus on the effects of change, transformation and long-term development in both urban and rural societies of the Middle East since 1500. They aim to shed light on the constitutive fabric of urban-rural relations in the political, administrative, economic and cultural life of Middle Eastern societies. With a particular emphasis on often overlooked and marginalised groups and settings, such as the Bedouin or rural areas in general, we counter the widespread neglect of a wide range of non-urban and non-elite actors in scholarly research as well as in political analysis. Continue reading