Nora Elizabeth Barakat
I am a historian of the late Ottoman Empire and the Modern Middle East. My research focuses on people, commodities and landscapes in the interior regions between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I have a particular interest in how legal categories of population, property and economy shaped and were shaped by the everyday experiences of social life. I am also committed to bringing both the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East into discussions of world history, especially narratives about capitalism and modern state formation. I teach courses on modern Middle East history, capital and crisis, Islamic law, and environmental history.
My current book project, Bedouin Bureaucrats: Nomads and Property in the Ottoman Empire, examines the ways tent-dwelling inhabitants of the Syrian interior contributed to and contested attempts to transform the desert fringe into a grain-exporting breadbasket in the second half of the nineteenth century. The project locates the experience of the Ottoman Syrian interior in a global context of commercial and administrative expansion into landscapes deemed underproductive, examining similarities and divergences with the American West and the Russian steppe. Using court and land registers, I uncover the stories of specific tent-dwelling individuals and communities involved in struggles over property, commerce, and the forms of modern governance. My other ongoing project combines my interests in the histories of Islamic law and capitalism. It explores the twentieth-century legacies of late Ottoman economy-making efforts in the Eastern Mediterranean, Iraq and the Persian Gulf, particularly the codification of civil law. My research has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Mellon Foundation, the Fulbright Foundation, and the Center for American and Overseas Research Centers.
Before coming to Stanford, I completed my PhD at the University of California, Berkeley and taught in the Persian Gulf for five years, first at Qatar University and then at New York University Abu Dhabi. At NYU Abu Dhabi, I co-founded OpenGulf, a set of interconnected digital projects focusing on historical documentation about the Gulf region.