Disputes on Alcohol in The Middle East

Disputes on Alcohol in The Middle East

Tuesday, 12 February 2019 - 5:00pm
Investcorp Auditorium, Middle East Centre, St Antony's College
Elife Biçer-Deveci (St Antony’s College)
Philippe Bourmaud (Jean Moulin University Lyon 3)
Nicolas Elias ((French School at Athens)
Philip Robins (St Antony's College)
MEC Seminar

Paper titles:

  • Dr Elife Bicer – Deveci Alcohol: A Battlefield between Modernism and Islamism in Turkey
  • Dr Nicolas Elias (French School at Athens): The Drinking Dervishes. Inebriation as disciplinary practice In Turkey
  • Dr. Philippe Bourmaud: The anatomy of alcohol : Drinking in surveys and reports in the modern Levant (1908-1948)

About the seminar:

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, alcohol has been the object of diverse and contested normative processes in the Middle East. Concomitant with the global circulation of alcohol as an industrial commodity and emergence of anti-alcohol policies in different parts of the globe, the Islamic sanctions on the consumption of alcohol also took on new meanings. Yet within the extensive literature on anti-alcohol movements and public alcohol policies in especially the European and American contexts, the Middle East has been typically overlooked. This is in part owing to the assumption that it is a non-issue given Islamic prohibition. The limited research on the Middle East context has tended to elaborate the multiple underlying concerns shaping the adoption and enforcement of public policies regarding alcohol including public morality, public health norms and religious prescriptions alongside ideological drivers.  We contribute to the limited but slowly growing scholarly focus on the contestations over alcohol in the Middle East by exploring different settings and uses, and historicizing current moral/religious discourses. In this manner we also shed light on the controversies over alcohol by framing it in the context of new forms of governmentality.

In particular: Philippe Bourmaud analyses the expert discourses on alcoholism ordered by the American humanitarian organisation, the Near East Relief, during the 1920s, and the British government of Palestine in the 1930s. Elife Biçer-Deveci presents how the issue of alcohol became a battlefield between modernism and Islamism in Turkey since 1920s. Nicolas Elias examines how antinomian Sufis in Turkey recast alcohol into a means of self-discipline. 

About the speakers:

Dr. Elife Bicer-Deveci is a Fellow of Early Postdoc Mobility Funds of Swiss National Science Foundation. She is historian and promoted at the Historical Institute of the University of Bern. Her research interest are gender studies, global historical approaches to the Middle East, interactions and exchange processes between Middle East and European countries from 1800 until today. Her recent project is about alcohol regulations policies in Iran and Turkey in the 20th century in the frame of international relations.

Selected Publications: 

She published a monography based of her Phd-project: Die osmanisch-türkische Frauenbewegung im Kontext internationaler Frauenorganisationen (The Ottoman-Turkish Women’s Movement in the Context of International Women’s Organisations). Ottoman Studies / Osmanistische Studien vol. 004. Bonn University Press; Vandenhoeck&Ruprecht, Göttingen 2017. In this book, Elife Biçer-Deveci interprets the relationship of the international women’s movement in its early stage with methods of the entangled history and brings the perspective of Ottoman-Turkish feminists to the fore. Thereby, she highlights ambiguities and cultural communication problems in the history of this relationship. She also wrote among other following articles about women’s movement in Ottoman Empire and Turkey: Ermächtigung oder Entmündigung für türkische Feministinnen? Die Aufnahme des Türkischen Frauenbundes in die International Alliance of Women. In: traverse 2016/2. S. 38-49. The Movement of Feminist Ideas: The Case of Kadınlar Dünyası. In: Kozma, Liat; Schayech, Cyrus; Wishnitzer, Avner. A Global Middle East: Mobility, Materiality and Culture in the Modern Age, 1880-1940. London, New York: IB Tauris, 2014. S. 347-355.

Dr. Philippe Bourmaud is an assistant professor in modern and contemporary at the Université Jean Moulin - Lyon 3 and a member of the Laboratoire de Recherche Historique Rhône-Alpes (UMR 5190). He specializes in the history of the medical profession and the history of addictions in the late Ottoman and Mandatory Arab Levant. His publications on the history of alcohol and psychoactive include :

  1. « Les faux-semblants d'une politique internationale : la Société des Nations et la lutte contre l'alcoolisme dans les mandats (1919-1930) », in Philippe Bourmaud (ed.), « Re-reading mandate history through a health policy lens », Bulletin Canadien d'histoire de la médecine, vol. 30, n° 2, 2013, pp. 69-90
  2.  « Exporting Obligations : Evolutionism, Normalization, and Mandatory Anti-Alcoholism from Africa to the Middle East (1918-1939) », in Andrew Arsan & Cyrus Schayegh (eds), The Routledge Handbook to the History of the Middle East Mandates, London, Routledge, 2015, p. 76-87
  3. « Turf wars at the League of Nations : International anti-cannabis policies and oversight in Syria and Lebanon, 1919-1939 », in Magaly Rodriguez Garcia, Davide Rodogno and Liat Kozma (eds), The League of Nations Work on Social Issues : Visions, Endeavours, and Experiments, Geneva, United Nations Office at Geneva, 2015, p. 75-89.

He contributes to the research blog of the "Alcohol and its enemies in the Islamic Worlds" group at : https://hypotheses.org/author/khayyam

Dr. Nicolas Elias is a research fellow in contemporary studies, at the French School at Athens and an associate member of the Centre d'Etudes Turques, Ottomanes, Balkaniques et Centrasiatiques (UMR 8032). As a social anthropologist, his work focuses on the notions of desire and discipline in Turkey and the Balkans. His publications include : 

  1. La république des danseurs. Enquête sur le partage de la musique dans les montagnes de Turquie, Éditions Karthala, Collection « Meydan », to be published in 2018
  2. Lavta, étude pour un luth d'Istanbul, Éditions Isis/Institut Français d’Études Anatoliennes, Istanbul, 2012 
  3. « Vivre sous la règle de Kaygusuz. Institutions confrériques et forme (liturgique) de vie commune », Turcica, n°48, 2017
  4. « La discipline de l’ivresse dans une confrérie musulmane de Turquie », Archives de Sciences Sociales des Religions, n°174, 2016
  5. « This is not a festival. Transhumance-based economies on Turkey’s upland pastures », Nomadic peoples, n°20, 2016