Dr. Mona Hassan: “International Pursuit of an Islamic Caliphate in the 1920s.”

I attended Dr. Hassan’s lecture partially because I’m the teaching assistant for a course on modern Middle Eastern history this year, and also partially because I am secretly quite interested in Middle Eastern history. I say secretly because I’ve barely admitted this to myself, yet…I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. All I know so far is that it’s one of the only other geographic areas that has seriously grabbed my interest!

Sadly, I think I wasn’t a very good participant at this particular lecture. I wasn’t familiar enough with the subject matter to really be a full participant, since some of the concepts and specifics were too nuanced for me to completely grasp. From my notes, though, her lecture centered around the 1924 dissolution of the Ottoman Caliphate by the Turkish government. Her talk explored the multiple attempts during the 1920s to reinstate or somehow reestablish a greater Muslim caliphate, and the international participation in these conversations. Central to her topic were the ideas of modernism and globalization, and how the did or did not conflict with pre-existing social constructs.

What struck me during this talk was the global effort to restore an Islamic Caliphate. It reminded me of Zionist movements and the efforts to reestablish a Jewish homeland. Maybe I drew these parallels because I don’t know enough about the topic, but I found it fascinating to think about the collective cultural desire for an established home/seat for a diverse collective. I wonder how this manifests itself in other areas, with other groups.

Dr. Hassan’s lecture style itself allowed me to come to a few conclusions as well. First, I think it’s very important to include a brief comment on the context of your topic. Doing this will help non-specialists to engage more fully in your discussion. Second, slides provide a great subject to focus on during a lecture! They should always add to the depth and content of the lecture instead of acting as placeholders–they’re prime real estate, and so should do double duty.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Dr. Hassan’s work showed me how nicely different concepts can intersect. She works with politics, gender, religion, and social issues and was able to tie them all together into one interesting topic. It was nice to see this in practice physically rather than just in print form.

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