Free and open to the public.
Co-sponsors: International Relations Program and History Department
The idea that the physical division of a territory along ethno-religious lines into separate sovereign nation-states is a desirable modus operandi is not new; but in the twenty-first century it has suddenly reemerged, conveniently divorced from its disastrously violent history, as a fashionable technique of “conflict resolution.” This talk challenges the idea of partition as a natural (if regrettable solution) to ethnic strife by locating its historical origins: in the British and French interwar attempts to lengthen the lives of their struggling empires. An examination of the partition of Palestine in this broader imperial context suggests that partition, far from representing a “solution” to ethnic conflict, actually emerged as a strategy to smooth the path for imperial powers to create new forms of informal authority and friendly client states for a new postcolonial era, without regard for the human costs.
Arie M. Dubnov is the Max Ticktin Chair of Israel Studies at the George Washington University and is a historian of twentieth-century Jewish and Israeli history, with emphasis on the history of political thought, the study of nationalism, and decolonization. He previously taught at Stanford University and the University of Haifa and was a Dorset Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies as well as a Visiting Scholar at Wolfson College, Oxford. Among his publications are the intellectual biography Isaiah Berlin: The Journey of a Jewish Liberal (2012) and the edited volume Zionism—A View from the Outside (2010 [in Hebrew]), which seeks to put Zionist history in a larger comparative trajectory. He has also published numerous essays in, among others, Nations & Nationalism, Modern Intellectual History, and The Journal of Israeli History.
Laura Robson is a professor of modern Middle Eastern history at Portland State University. Her research interests encompass local, regional, and global iterations of internationalism and international governance, modern histories of mass violence, and the politics of ethnicity and religion in the twentieth-century Arab world. Her most recent book, States of Separation: Transfer, Partition, and the Making of the Modern Middle East (2017), explores the history of forced migration, population exchanges, and refugee resettlement in Iraq, Syria, and Palestine during the interwar period. She is also the author of Colonialism and Christianity in Mandate Palestine (2011) and editor of the collected volume Minorities and the Modern Arab World: New Perspectives (2016).