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

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

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

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

Synopsis

In this groundbreaking book, Ilham Khuri-Makdisi establishes the existence of a special radical trajectory spanning four continents and linking Beirut, Cairo, and Alexandria between 1860 and 1914. She shows that socialist and anarchist ideas were regularly discussed, disseminated, and reworked among intellectuals, workers, dramatists, Egyptians, Ottoman Syrians, ethnic Italians, Greeks, and many others in these cities. In situating the Middle East within the context of world history, Khuri-Makdisi challenges nationalist and elite narratives of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern history as well as Eurocentric ideas about global radical movements. The book demonstrates that these radical trajectories played a fundamental role in shaping societies throughout the world and offers a powerful rethinking of Ottoman intellectual and social history.

Excerpt

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 are best described as 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 theaters, and during strikes and demonstrations, disseminating radical thought through educational, cultural, and popular institutions. They often combined radical goals with seemingly more moderate, liberal demands, such as the establishment of constitutional and representative government and freedom of speech, the curbing of religious and clerical authority, and resistance to European political and economic encroachments. the concepts of social justice that constituted central themes in leftist thought were rarely discussed in isolation from larger issues, but rather went hand in hand with a broader reformist agenda. Radicals in Beirut, Cairo, and Alexandria forged a culture of contestation in which they challenged existing and emerging class boundaries, redefined notions of foreignness and belonging, and promoted alternative visions of social and world order.

One of the most salient features of radical and leftist movements, as they were articulated in the late nineteenth century in the Eastern Mediterranean (and beyond), was their internationalism, spurred by a hyperawareness of and deep inter-

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