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A regional history of medicine in the modern Middle East, 1830-1960

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - Mideast Med (A regional history of medicine in the modern Middle East, 1830-1960)

Reporting period: 2020-09-01 to 2022-02-28

Our purpose is to write a long-term regional history of medicine in the Middle East and North Africa from a transnational and multi-layered perspective. A regional approach strives to trace both global influences and local specificities, while a long-term perspective (1830-1960) allow tracing continuity and change from the late Ottoman Middle East through the colonial to the post-colonial periods. Combining asources in Arabic, French, English, Ladino, Hebrew, English, German and Ottoman Turkish, our purpose is to observe how the mobility of people, germs, knowledge and capital affected public health and public health policies in the region.
MidEastMed explores six analytic cores.
1. The global context: global vectors of disease transmission, alongside the transmission of medical knowledge and expertise. We examine, for example, global bodies of knowledge, and the global, regional and local medical challenges of the era of global mobility.
2. The international aspect: how international conventions and international bodies affected the region and were affected by it.
3. The regional flow of both health challenges and proposed solutions, the regional spread of epidemics and the formation of regional epistemic communities.
4. The colonial aspect, noting both inter- and intra-colonial influences, and the encounter between colonial bodies of knowledge and locally produced ones.
5. The role played by doctors in various national projects: the nahda, namely the Arabic literary revival; the Zionist project; Egyptian and Syrian interwar nationalism and Arab nationalism.
6. The social history of medical encounters. Spread across a wide expanse of space and time, we endeavor to portray a long-term narrative of interactions between local societies and modern medicine.
In its first four and a half years, the project’s dissertations, articles, and conference presentations included:
1. The global history of ringworm research and treatment
2. The regional circulation of medical texts and health professionals
3. The British colonial Overseas Nurse Association (ONA) and its work in the Middle East
4. French medical projects in North Africa
5. The history of the Hebrew University’s medical school
6. Micro-histories of sanitation and health in Mandate Palestine
7. A social history of cholera in late Ottoman Empire cities
8. Jewish women’s health in the Ottoman center and its European provinces

The project organized a day conference on the topic of “The Doctor, the Library and the Archive: Multidisciplinary Gaze on Medicine” (Jerusalem, 2018) and a 3-day workshop on “Medical Mobilities in the Middle East and North Africa, 1830-1960” (Nazareth, 2019). The workshop resulted in two special issues: “Gender and the Struggle over the Medical Profession in the Middle East,” at the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies (March 2022), and “Medical Mobilities of the Middle East and North Africa,” for Bulletin of the History of Medicine (scheduled for fall 2022).

Team members have organized panels at the following major conferences:
1. World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies Annual Meeting, 2018 (“Mediators, Medicine and Coloniality: The Middle East and the Maghreb in the 19th and 20th Centuries”)
2. Middle East Studies Association 2018 (“Doctors and Discourse: Medical Themes in the Arab Nahda”) and 2019 (“Medicine on the Move: Medical Agents Crossing Borders”)
3. Middle East and Islamic Studies Association of Israel (MEISAI) Annual Conference 2017 (“Healing and Working: Physicians in the Arab World in Modern Times”), 2018 (“Body, Medicine, and Establishment at the Beginning of the 20th Century: Discourse and Practice”), and 2019 (“Society, Nation, and Government in Interwar Egypt”).

Team members also presented their work in smaller conferences and workshops in Israel, Spain, Germany, and the UK. Team members have visited archives in London, Paris. and Nantes.

Team members have completed five MA theses, two of which won national awards. Five articles have been published in the Journal of Middle East Women Studies, Gender and History and Historical Sociology. Seven articles are forthcoming in the journals The Bulletin of the History of Medicine, Zmanim: A Historical Quarterly, and in edited volumes: Handbook of Modern Egyptian History, Middle Eastern and Balkan Mobilities in the Interwar Period and The Hebrew University, 1948-1967. Four more articles are currently under revisions.

The project website presents the team’s work. A password protected part, which will be open to the public by mid-2023, is the database of medical personnel active in the Middle East and North Africa, 1830-1960. It currently includes information on over 10,500 health professionals and more than 1,700 medical and educational institutions and organizations, in 1245 cities, towns and villages in every inhabited continent, and in 543 sources.

Finally, outreach activity included:
1. Academic consultation to an exhibition on the history of Rambam Hospital in Haifa, held in the Haifa Municipal Museum in February-August 2019, and co-authorship of the exhibition’s trilingual catalogue.
2. Gamification: We created two educational games: a card game, designed to teach students key terms in the history of epidemics, medical discoveries, and local history of medicine; and a board game simulating a 1900 pilgrimage to Mecca, designed to teach students about the medical and logistical challenges of turn-of-the-century mobility.
3. Press: The PI and several team members were interviewed and published short historical texts in the general press, as well as appearing on several national and international podcasts.
4. A historical tour following the history of medicine in Jerusalem.
5. Teaching the history of medicine in the Middle East at the Hebrew University’s medical school.
IIn the coming 18 months we plan to use our database to map national, transnational, regional and global medical mobilities. It will also enable us to network with other historians of medicine in the Middle East. The database will form the basis for my own book manuscript, tentatively titled A Regional History of the Medical Profession in the Middle East, which is in early writing stages.

Research output will include a MA thesis, on scientific medicine and physicians in the Islamic reformist thought of early 20th-century Egypt, and 5 PhD dissertations:
1. On Jewish women’s religious practices in light of the encounter with scientific medicine.
2. Gynecology and obstetrics in French Algeria.
3. A social history of cholera in four Ottoman urban centers
4. Egyptian medicine and regional and international health organizations.
5. A history of urbanism in north Palestine via health and sanitation issues

Articles in preparation include products from MA dissertations, early findings of PhD dissertations, and products of my own and the post-doctoral fellows’ research. These include, in addition to the topics above, articles on the Israeli anatomy and pathology law (1953) and its implementation; about the British medical infrastructure in Palestine, and on Arab doctors’ nineteenth century writings.

In 2023, we are planning a second international workshop that will bring our project into conversations with historians of medicine of other regions of the Global South.

Future outreach includes:
1. Collaboration with medical institutions: exhibition and lectures to the public.
2. Guided tours: an app-based self-guided tour on the history of medicine in Haifa.
Poster of Medical Mobilities workshop in Nazareth
A historical exhibition at Haifa Municipal Museum
A visit to the BIU sante library
A card for our board game, on the 1900 hajj
A group visit to the historical building of Hansen Hospital