Wilson Jacob

discipline History
Associate Professor in the Department of History at Concordia University in Montreal

Research project

Sovereignty in Times of Empire: Islam, Preachers, and Gangsters

 

This research aims to provide a cultural history and theoretical critique of the present terms of violence that pit a rule of law, normally represented by states, against a rule of terror, normally represented by non-state actors. The nineteenth-century encounter between Islamic societies and colonialism is the launching point for a re-examination of violence and sovereignty from the perspective of local forms and networks of embodied power, which further illuminates an alternative history of the modern international order. Rather than being born out of bloody wars between states in Europe as the standard Westphalian model posits or forged from the clash of empires and civilizations, the modern international form imposed on the world might be regarded as the product of a global reconfiguration of relations of power, which took place between and betwixt nations and states. Hence, contrary to the typical history of the colonial encounter as an inherent conflict and protracted struggle for the state between colonial rulers and nationalist movements, my research reframes that history in terms of the contest between “traditional big men” and the modern abstraction of Man that came with universal claims about law and order made both by representatives of Empire and by representatives of “the colonized.” This approach promises a route for rethinking present formations of violence along more complex and nuanced lines that question the reductive clash-of-civilizations framing of post-Cold War geopolitics while offering an alternative historical-theoretical framework for analyzing the politics of terror. The theoretical investigation that seeks to access, and potentially recast, the terms of political modernity from a new vantage point will be grounded in the histories and ongoing social lives of an unlikely pair of figures, the “preacher” and the “gangster.” I traverse mostly forgotten contact zones between “Islam” and “the West” excavating along its borders these two problematic figures of embodied sovereignty: the mystical, peripatetic sayyid and the criminal, heroic futuwwa. Exploring the putative abjection of the two figures, which represented archaic forms of politics and personhood to the West and to modern Islam, provides a unique perspective from which to re-materialize the vanished realm of their mutual birth and to reconsider their shared future.

Biography

 

Wilson Jacob has been Associate Professor in the Department of History at Concordia University in Montreal since 2011. He received a BS in Foreign Service and an MA in Arab Studies from Georgetown University. He holds a Ph.D. in History and Middle Eastern Studies from New York University. He has also studied at the American University in Cairo, the Dekhuda Institute in Tehran, and the AIIS in Thiruvananthapuram.

Selected publications

 

Working Out Egypt: Effendi Masculinity and Subject Formation in Colonial Modernity, 1870-1940, Duke University Press / American University in Cairo Press, 2011.

 

‘Of Angels and Men: Sayyid Fadl bin Alawi and Two Moments of Sovereignty’, Arab Studies Journal, vol.20, no.1, 2012, pp.40-73. 

 

‘Overcoming Simply Being: Straight Sex, Masculinity, and Physical Culture in Egypt’, Gender and History, vol.22, no.3, 2010, pp.1-19.

 

‘Eventful Transformations: Al-Futuwwa between History and the Everyday’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 2007, pp.689-712.

 

‘History and the Masculine Subject of Colonialism: The Egyptian Loss of the Sudan’, in L. Ouzgane and R. Morrell (eds), African Masculinities, Palgrave, 2005, pp.153-69.

 

‘The Turban, the Tarbush, and the Top Hat: Masculinity, Modernity, and National Identity in Interwar Egypt’, Al-Ra’ida, Lebanese American University, vol.Winter/Spring, 2004, pp.23-37.

institut

junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH)
discipline History
2016
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2014/2015
Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH)
discipline Religious Studies
2014
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2015/2016
Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH)
discipline Literature
2015
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2011/2012
Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH)
discipline History
2011