Dr. Ussama Makdisi, Rice University
February 26, 2017

Recent American involvement in the Arab world has been vexed, controversial and violent. It has led to both rampant anti-Arab sentiment and Islamophobia in the United States and to anti-Americanism in the Middle East.  Yet an older cultural engagement between Americans and Arabs goes back to the early part of the nineteenth century.  Professor Makdisi will cover the history and consequences of a changing American engagement with the Middle East. He will chart a story that began with an obsession with religion but moved on to one centered around resources.  He will challenge spurious notions about a “clash of civilizations,” and ask to what extent the current unraveling of the Arab world is directly and indirectly a consequence of U.S. hegemony over the region since 1967.

Dr. Ussama Makdisi is Professor of History and the first holder of the Arab-American Educational Foundation Chair of Arab Studies at Rice University. In 2012-2013, Makdisi was Resident Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study, Berlin.  The Carnegie Corporation named Makdisi a 2009 Carnegie Scholar as part of its effort to promote original scholarship regarding Muslim societies and communities, both in the United States and abroad. Professor Makdisi is the author of Faith Misplaced: The Broken Promise of U.S.-Arab Relations, 1820-2001 (Public Affairs, 2010), Artillery of Heaven: American Missionaries and the Failed Conversion of the Middle East (Cornell University Press, 2008), The Culture of Sectarianism: Community, History, and Violence in Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Lebanon (University of California Press, 2000) and co-editor of Memory and Violence in the Middle East and North Africa (Indiana University Press, 2006. He is now working on a manuscript on the history of coexistence and sectarianism in the modern Middle East to be published by the University of California Press.

Supported by New Mexico Humanities Council and Sandia National Labs