The Middle Class in the Modern Middle East

hosted by Chris Gratien

Download the podcast
Feed | iTunes | Soundcloud

In comparison with the historiography of other world regions, class has often been an ignored aspect of the history of the late Ottoman Empire and modern Middle East. This has been especially true with regard to the middle class. But as our guest Keith Watenpaugh has argued in Being Modern in the Middle East, the middle class emerged as a discrete segment of late Ottoman society represented by businessmen, professionals, educators, and writers who engaged robustly with ideas concerning modernity and nationalism and contributed greatly to the making of post-Ottoman societies. In this interview, Prof. Watenpaugh reflects on his research regarding Ottoman and post-Ottoman Aleppo and the historiography of modernity and class in the Middle East roughly a decade after Being Modern's publication, and we explore possible directions for further inquiry.


via Soundcloud (US / preferred)


Keith David Watenpaugh is Professor and Director of the University of California, Davis Human Rights Studies Program.  A UCLA-trained historian, he is author of Bread from Stones: The Middle East and the Making of Modern Humanitarianism (California, 2015) and Being Modern in the Middle East (Princeton, 2006) and articles in the American Historical Review, Social History, International Journal of Middle East Studies, Journal of Human Rights, Humanity, Chronicle of Higher Education, Ayrıntı Dergi, Jadaliyya & Huffington Post.
Chris Gratien holds a Ph.D. from Georgetown University's Department of History. His research focuses on the social and environmental history of the Ottoman Empire and the modern Middle East. He is currently preparing a monograph about the environmental history of the Cilicia region from the 1850s until the 1950s.


Episode No. 237
Release Date: 8 April 2016
Recording Location: Aynalıçeşme, Istanbul
Editing and production by Chris Gratien
Special thanks to Kara Güneş for allowing us to use the composition "Istanbul" in the intro music
Sound excerpts: Harmandali - Recep Efendi, Cemal Efendi
Image via Library of Congress


Keith David Watenpaugh
Being Modern in the Middle East
Princeton University Press, 2006
Anderson, Betty S. The American University of Beirut Arab Nationalism and Liberal Education. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2011.

Arsan, Andrew. Interlopers of Empire: The Lebanese Diaspora in Colonial French West Africa. 2014.

Brummett, Palmira Johnson. Image and Imperialism in the Ottoman Revolutionary Press, 1908-1911. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 2000.

Davis, Eric. Memories of State: Politics, History, and Collective Identity in Modern Iraq. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.

Der Matossian, Bedross. Shattered Dreams of Revolution: From Liberty to Violence in the Late Ottoman Empire. 2014.

Fortna, Benjamin C. Imperial Classroom: Islam, the State, and Education in the Late Ottoman Empire. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Gelvin, James L. Divided Loyalties: Nationalism and Mass Politics in Syria at the Close of Empire. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

Gualtieri, Sarah. Between Arab and White Race and Ethnicity in the Early Syrian-American Diaspora. CA: University of California Press, 2009.

Hanna, Nelly. In Praise of Books: A Cultural History of Cairo's Middle Class, Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2003.

Kayalı, Hasan. Arabs and Young Turks: Ottomanism, Arabism, and Islamism in the Ottoman Empire, 1908-1918. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

Khater, Akram Fouad. Inventing Home Emigration, Gender, and the Middle Class in Lebanon, 1870-1920. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.

Khoury, Philip S. Syria and the French Mandate: The Politics of Arab Nationalism, 1920-1945. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1987.

López, A. Ricardo, and Barbara Weinstein. The Making of the Middle Class: Toward a Transnational History of the Middle Class. Durham: Duke University Press, 2012.

Provence, Michael. The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Arab Nationalism. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005.

Seikaly, Sherene. Men of Capital: Scarcity and Economy in Mandate Palestine. 2016.

Thompson, Elizabeth. Colonial Citizens: Republican Rights and Paternal Privilige in French Syria and Lebanon. New York: Columbia UP, 2000.

Watenpaugh, Keith David. Being Modern in the Middle East: Revolution, Nationalism, Colonialism, and the Arab Middle Class. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2006.


Ottoman History Podcast is a noncommerical website intended for educational use. Anyone is welcome to use and reproduce our content with proper attribution under the terms of noncommercial fair use within the classroom setting or on other educational websites. All third-party content is used either with express permission or under the terms of fair use. Our page and podcasts contain no advertising and our website receives no revenue. All donations received are used solely for the purposes of covering our expenses. Unauthorized commercial use of our material is strictly prohibited, as it violates not only our noncommercial commitment but also the rights of third-party content owners.

We make efforts to completely cite all secondary sources employed in the making of our episodes and properly attribute third-party content such as images from the web. If you feel that your material has been improperly used or incorrectly attributed on our site, please do not hesitate to contact us.