Social and Cultural History in the Arab World, Turkey and Iran: Theories, Methods and Themes

Peter Polak-Springer's picture
Call for Papers
March 17, 2016 to March 18, 2016
Subject Fields: 
Middle East History / Studies, Social History / Studies, Cultural History / Studies

Last modified: September 02, 2015 11:07:14.

Third Annual International Conference

Department of Humanities, Qatar University

 17 -18 March 2016

Historians have studied the past in various ways and with changing interests.  They have tried to assess the importance of great figures and pivotal events and to trace the daily lives of ordinary people.  They have looked for cultures and economies, experiences and mentalities, emotions and ideas as key factors in human development.  They have focused on towns, regions and nations, and the connections between the Eastern and Western worlds. Historians’ questions, objects of study, concepts and methods change because they constantly debate the validity of their interpretations and are inspired by other disciplines.

In the second half of the 20th century, social history established a dominant position in research and teaching in European and North American universities.  It is eclectic, touches on issues of public debate, and encourages a much broader understanding of the past. These factors contribute to its current status as a true social science in its own right.  Since the 1980s, however, social history has been experiencing an identity crisis and has retreated while “cultural history” took off.  Social history has been criticized for its rigid concentration on structures and conflict models of society.  It has been accused of neglecting key social groups like women and minorities.  Cultural interpretations, on the contrary, are thought to be more liberating and better equipped to provide more avenues to be explored. Cultural historians are not only concerned with the history of culture, but also with meaning and the way people in the past made sense of the world around them.  Cultural history focuses less on society and more on individuals and less formal groups, as well as beliefs and cultural forms. It has embraced elements of literary theory, cultural anthropology, and even epistemology in historical study.

This conference will look at social and cultural history as a specific episode in the history of historiography with special focus on the Arab world, Turkey and Iran. It seeks to provide a re-appraisal of this type of history today and address the following questions:

How are social and cultural history as a discipline faring in the Arab world, Turkey and Iran today and what experiences and developments have they gone through?
How are these developments similar to, different from, or connected to those in Europe and North America, and why?
What social and cultural histories do historians in the Arab world, Turkey and Iran research and teach in terms of subject matter, concepts, theories and methods?
Where do the major controversies over the nature of social and cultural history in the Arab world, Turkey and Iran reside?
How comparable are social and cultural histories in the Arab world, on the one hand, and in Iran and Turkey, on the other?

The conference will be structured around, but is not limited to, the following themes:

Social and cultural history: theories and concepts, sources and applications
Class, culture and identity
Gender issues
Nations and traditions
Economies, culture and consumption
Race and postcolonial identities
Deviance, inclusion and exclusion
Culture, power and social action


Please include the following in your abstract (250 words maximum): name, current position and institutional affiliation, paper title, your mailing address, email, phone and fax number. You will be notified of acceptance by email. Selected papers will be considered for publication and inclusion in the conference proceedings. Submit a soft copy of your abstract via this email at the latest by November 15, 2015.

The Conference organizing committee offers limited travel funding for select participants.

Contact Info: 

Mahjoob Zweiri, Head of the Humanities Department
Peter Polak-Springer, Assistant Professor
Qatar University
Humanities Department 
P.O. Box 2713
Doha, Qatar