- “Cold War Islamisms,” Freie Universität Berlin (March 15-16, 2019)
Ideas of pan-Islamism and calls for an “Islamic government” predated the Cold War, but the emergence of a global competition between the United States of America and the Soviet Union changed the terms on which Islamist intellectuals had to justify themselves. The nature of imperialist competition had shifted from one of territorial annexation by European empires to a Cold War marked by the competition of ideologies and the threat of nuclear war. More than that, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and decolonization created an international system in which ideas of Islamic unity had to contend with various nationalisms in Muslim-majority societies, “pan” movements like pan-Arabism and Ba’athism, and secular internationalisms like Non-Alignment or Afro-Asianism. Further, when Islamist actors did break through onto the international stage, they did so in countries like Shi’a-majority Iran or Afghanistan that were themselves objects of superpower interventions from the United States and the Soviet Union. The emergence of political Islam on the world stage in 1978-1979 (the Iranian Revolution, the anti-Soviet Afghan jihad, and indeed the seizure of the Great Mosque of Mecca by Saudi radicals) thus not only altered the battleground of the global Cold War but had also been shaped by it, too.
Despite the intuition among historians that the “career” of Islamism was both shaped by the Cold War and shaped its ending, however, few works engage in the empirical work to understand the relationship between the two. The last several years has seen an efflorescence of works on Islamism and pan-Islamism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Similarly, the last decade and a half has seen the publication of works in “new Cold War history” that decenter the conflict from Washington and Moscow and explore themes like Sino-Soviet or Sino-American competition. This workshop will draw on both of these communities of scholarship to reveal the interactions between Islamist actors and the international system of the Cold War from the 1950s to the late 1980s.
- “Toward an International History of the Middle East in the 1980s,” Freie Universität Berlin (July 30, 2018)