Between 1910 and 1917, the Students’ Christian Association of the University of Michigan sent out six alumni to go to Basra, Iraq, to do what they perceived to be humanitarian work. This study looks at the various fundraising mediums used by the organizers of this so-called “Michigan in Arabia” venture to convince potential donors to give the necessary funds. By analyzing these sources this study shows how a campus organization that ostensibly aimed to help the inhabitants of Basra instead functioned to cultivate Americans’ interests in the potential of this Persian Gulf city as a base for furthering U.S. power in the Middle East. It is important to study this short-lived U.S. engagement in Iraq because by cultivating incipient U.S. imperialism in the region, the Michigan venture provides a historical foundation for the emergence of U.S. economic, political, and strategic interests in Iraq in the long run.
This article explores aspects of Middle Eastern and North African (mena) Jewry in the first half of the twentieth century through their engagement with philanthropy. Specifically, this article demonstrates how many urban Jewish communities in mena adopted and adapted Western European philanthropic structures to fit the needs of their local communities by engaging with multiple public spheres (Jewish, Arab, imperial) that were, at times, in conflict with each other. By highlighting the transnational nature of mena Jewry in the twentieth century, this article demonstrates the importance of philanthropic networks as an articulation of power and social status. Finally, this piece suggests that local Jewish philanthropic initiatives can act as a prism by which we understand power structures within transnational religious networks.
The aim of this article is to highlight the political uses of the legal concept of waqf in a confrontation between an Orthodox and a Catholic institution during the initial phase of the schism within the Church of Antioch. The Monastery of St Catherine at Mount Sinai confronted the hospice of the Franciscans in the court of the Chief Judge of the province of Damascus in 1145/1733. The legal aspects of the lawsuit are an interesting example of the use of the Ottoman judiciary by non-Muslims, but in order to understand the political implications of the case, it needs to be analysed in the broader context of the religious and political tensions of the time. Therefore, a sketch of the history of both monasteries and their endowments is supplemented with a chapter on the role of Sylvestros, Patriarch of Antioch, in Damascus and an examination of the French and Spanish interests within this Ottoman context.
This contribution endeavors to show that building and administrating Coptic charitable associations according to the laws of the Egyptian Ministry of Social Affairs (mosa) does not mean allying with or challenging one of the two institutions that claim control over the Coptic Christian ethics of giving in Egypt: the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate and the Egyptian government. Especially since my interlocutors are simultaneously integral subjects of the waqf properties (endowments, i.e. the parishes) administered by the institutional Church, they are less interested in negotiating a true definition of such a practice. Beyond the power dynamics that have played out over the orthodoxy of religious practices and that are intensively analyzed in existing literature, I argue that maintaining relations with the two official entities that govern Christian charity in Egypt invites thinking about interactions developed within the context of a heavenly community. Instead of focusing on the competition of who holds and authorizes the better form of the Coptic Christian tradition of khidma (service), I suggest that the interactions with this divine community are sometimes intertwined with overlooked invisible and inaudible meanings of dissent and activism among members of the largest Christian minority in the Middle East.
This contribution aims to look through a common lens at two important components of early modern Ottoman society, namely the endowment system and the institution of slavery. The relationship and intersections of these two fields will be examined on the basis of Istanbul’s court records from the second half of the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries, in order to pursue the question of where and how (manumitted) slaves could benefit from endowments. The examination of individual cases found in the court records provides information about possible ways in which (former) slaves took on different roles and benefited from the charitable intentions of the founders of endowments.