CFP: Crime and Its Investigation in Imperial Contexts: Africa and the Middle East (International Workshop, Ben Gurion University of the Negev)

Haggai Ram's picture

Criminal activity and its investigation hold a special value to historians. They bring to the forefront debates on important issues such as race, gender and class, and expose moral assumptions. They also allow historians to follow general patterns of crime investigation and examine global interactions. Crime and its investigation should therefore be examined not only within the scope of legal history but also in the context of broader cultural, social and political histories.

Historians of Europe have been using criminal records for many years to shed light on the experiences and perspectives of groups and individuals that were historically marginalized or disregarded by state authorities, and are consequently underrepresented in archives. Yet, historians of modern empire have only recently began to focus on crime and its investigation in order to explore similar issues. The pioneers in this sphere were historians of British India, but the study of crime in other areas, such as Africa and the Middle East, is only at its initial stages. In the colonial and imperial sphere investigation of crime can shed light on colonial relations, racial hierarchies, the relation between power and knowledge, the limits of colonial power, the agency of subjects, definitions of crime and criminality and their application in the metropole, and colonial investigations as laboratories of police work back in Europe. While our goal is seeking to recover the voices and agencies of local actors within the arenas of crime and its investigation, we also wish to demonstrate the structuring patterns and non-local, global constraints that effect these agents and shape the minds of both criminals and investigators.

We invite scholars working on colonial and non-colonial empires in Africa and the Middle East, including the Ottoman, Safavid and Qajar Empires, to submit relevant proposals for an international workshop on the subject. We are interested in papers examining the world of the criminals, surveillance of criminals, witness interrogations, the use of forensic science, psychological aspects of crime investigations, etc, from the 18th through the 20th century.  

Submission Guidelines

The workshop will be held at Ben-Gurion University on 1-2 June 2020. All participants will be expected to submit, by 1 May, 2020, a working paper to be distributed among the other participants. The workshop is sponsored by BGU's Department of Middle East Studies, the Africa Center and the Herzog Center for Middle East Studies and Diplomacy.

Those interested in participating in the workshop are welcome to send by 1 October, 2019, a one-page proposal in English, along with a short C.V.  The proposal should briefly state the topic and outline how the paper contributes to the aims of the workshop. We hope to publish selected papers from the workshop as a book or a special journal issue.

Please send the above and refer any questions to Ruth Ginio ( and Haggai Ram (

Financial assistance for airfare and accommodation will be offered depending on the workshop's budget