CfP: Beyond the European Theatre of 14-18

Call for articles, special issue of Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée

Beyond the European Theatre of 14-18: The Other Great War in the Muslim World

Deadline Proposals for papers: January, 31 2015

“Suppose that Germany, France and England constituted, by themselves, the entire world: suppose that, all over the globe, there were only three countries and all around deep seas. Would it make war?”… “The war spread from East to West; Orient imposed it to the West.” Therefore, this quote by Elie Halevy invites us to shuffle around our perspective of the Great War, generally focused on its European theatre to consider the Orient. Indeed, for this special issue of the REMMM, we wish to draw the attention of the researchers on the Muslim world during the First World War, from the Balkans to Central Asia through the Caucasus, the Ottoman Empire, the Maghreb and the entire Middle East.

Looking at the peculiar history of these regions, it is clear that the chronological framework “14-18”, mainly determined by a logic of war declarations and peace treaties, is not suitable for understanding the impact of First World War in these areas. Accordingly, it is necessary to take into account another calendar of events, considering firstly, the early local crises and their military and strategic issues, since they were true preludes to the Great War, with for instance the Italo-Turkish war of 1911 and the Balkan wars (1912-1913). These first major crises, which revealed a slowdown in the imperialist quest at the edges of European powers and empires, drastically altered regional balances in the Mediterranean, the Balkans and the Middle East (for instance projects of Egypt’s annexation by the British in 1908, projects of the “Great Syria” in France, and the Baghdadbahn in Germany). Then, secondly, the First World War is, of course, a moment of ruptures and crises in, among others, the Muslim world: Europeans empires involved their oversee territories in the war, with general or partial mobilizations, or those territories truly became theatres of conflicts and real fronts. Finally, since the peace treaties were largely contested, the year 1918 does not allow us to assess the end of the conflict; issues of “sortie de guerre” and pacification of the societies must also be questioned from the point of view of the southern shore of the Mediterranean. For example, the First World War found continuities in the Ottoman Empire with the “War of Liberation” (till 1923) that gave birth to modern Turkey, in the Russian Empire with the civil war, and in Central Asia and the Caucasus with anti-Russian and anti-Soviet guerrilla violence until the late 1920s.

Thus, to understand the importance and the significance of First World War in the Muslim world, we propose to question these three main moments in order to reconsider framework of “14-18” and to better understand the ruptures and the specific trajectories of those regions:

1 – First crises and the end of the “Eastern Question”: geostrategic redistribution in the light of military matters

This first point questions the meaning of First World War as a breaking point or the end of the “Eastern Question”: what would be the early signs of the slowdown of European imperialism in the Muslim world, and what would be the maritime and land issues for the belligerents? The concerns for the Ottoman and European powers to maritime roads, railways, military bases and straits helps us to draw a new geographical framework, which structure together the empires and their territorial possessions; however the control for these strategic routes generate many tensions. In this respect, we have to consider for example – but these suggestions are not limited – the question of the Suez Canal, the one of the Persian Gulf and, more generally, the ones of sea routes for the British strategy; the question of the support points such as Holy places or Syrian-Lebanese ports in the French strategy; the question of straits in the Ottoman, German and of course Russian strategies; and of course the role of railways and railpower. These issues will be determinant factors during the conflict for the logistics of troops and supplies.

2 – Crisis and war breaks: How to mobilize colonial and imperial societies?

Once the war was declared and the primary fronts were stabilized, empires mobilized directly or indirectly, immediately or with delay, the colonial territories into the conflict. It is then necessary to examine the social, economic and political transformations engendered by these mobilizations: the involvement of men and women into the war (imperial policies of conscription, recruitment in active or labor battalions, resistance, organization of the labor at the rear and gender issue); the military and economic mobilisation which challenged monopolistic situations (oil, cotton, agriculture, opium); and, finally, the war propaganda effort with the role of religion (brotherhoods, pilgrimage to Mecca), competitive transnational ideologies (pan-Islamism, pan-Turkism, pan-Arabism), or even archaeology as a tool of influence.

3 – “Sortie de guerre” or the “end of the empire “? Nature of violence and new frontiers

At this stage, we should question here the specific nature of the conflict and the violence on these so-called “secondary” fronts, which are less constituted by the combats between clear-cut military forces belonging to different states involved in a logic of fronts than by mechanisms of sub-state violence, because, at least, of the weakness of administrative networks: the military field is less structured in the margins of states and empires but it is compensated by a logic of paramilitary organisation (with irregular troops in the Ottoman Empire or self-defense militias in Central Asia for instance). Those are involved in massacres and massive and systematic destruction of civilian populations on ethnic or religious grounds. Indeed, the issues of massacres and genocide (with the exception of the Armenian genocide, for which conferences and publications are largely devoted for 2015), forced displacements of populations and refugees of war, epidemics, famines and shortages, as well as desertions and banditry.

Transversal and comparative approaches are encouraged. Proposals for papers (300 words, mentioning the sources) and a short CV in French and English, should be sent before January, 31 2015 to

Julie Andurain (Paris-Sorbonne/Centre Roland Mousnier)

Leyla Dakhli (CNRS/Berlin)

Cloe Drieu (CNRS / CETOBaC)

Cloé Drieu
8 rue Lakanal
93500 Pantin
Tél. : 09 50 73 41 70 ou 06 95 95 43 40

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