Skip Navigation

The Eastern Mediterranean and the Making of Global Radicalism 1860-1914

A lecture by Ilham Khuri-Makdisi, Northeastern University

In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth, a wide variety of radical leftist ideas began circulating among segments of the populations of Eastern Mediterranean cities, especially in Beirut, Cairo and Alexandria, then among the most culturally and politically important cities of the Arab Ottoman world. These ideas, which were selective adaptations of socialist and anarchist principles, included specific calls for social justice, workers’ rights, mass secular education, and anticlericalism, and more broadly a general challenge to the existing social and political order at home and abroad. Those who embraced such ideas expressed them in articles, pamphlets, plays, and popular poetry (in Arabic, but also in Italian, Ottoman Turkish and Greek), in literary salons, and theatres, and during strikes and demonstrations, disseminating radical thought through educational, cultural, and popular institutions. Radicals formed networks that were connected, informationally, politically, and organizationally, to international and internationalist movements and organizations that sought to promote leftist ideas and implement radical projects in various corners of the world. Beyond these formal and official connections lay an entire worldview and way of being-in-the-world, a global radical moment that radical thinkers and activists in the Eastern Mediterranean partook in and helped shape.

Ilham Khuri-Makdisi teaches courses in Middle Eastern history, World history and urban history. She is particularly interested in Mediterranean cities in the late 19th, early 20th centuries and the movements of people and ideas. Her current research focuses on the articulation and dissemination of radical ideas such as socialism and anarchism, in eastern Mediterranean cities. Specifically, she analyzes the establishment of migrant networks of intellectuals, dramatists and workers, and their roles in the spread of radical ideas in and between Beirut, Cairo, Alexandria. She argues that the presence and activities of such (nominally 'peripheral') radical networks were central to the making of a globalized world and to the formulation of alternative visions of radicalism.

Part of James Gelvin's speaker series on the Historiography of the Middle East

For more info please contact:
Johanna Romero
(310) 825-1455

To print this page, select "Print" from the File menu of your browser.