Crown Center for Middle East Studies

The Locust and the Starling: An Environmental History of Borders in the Modern Middle East

A Brown Bag Seminar with Sam Dolbee

April 18, 2018

The locust and the starling

The transition between the Ottoman Empire and the post-Ottoman states of the Middle East is a momentous one, the effects of which are still felt. Typically, this event is explained in terms of new national identities and new borders. This presentation takes a different approach to that familiar story of transition by following locusts between 1860 and 1940 in the Jazira, the region that currently constitutes the borderlands of Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. The paths of these seemingly humble insects shed light on often ignored ecological connections of the late Ottoman period that have persisted to the present. Meanwhile, changing regimes for managing these insects — from Sufi-blessed holy waters that attracted starlings to arsenate pesticides — illuminate changing ideas of what it meant to be human in this contentious region. Join us for this fascinating discussion!

Sam Dolbee is a Junior Research Fellow at the Crown Center.