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Epidemics in the Middle East – Then and Now

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Dr Tylor Brand, Assistant Professor, Department of Near and Middle Eastern Studies in Trinity College, Dublin presents “Epidemics in the Middle East – Then and Now“.




Trinity College Dublin joins Al-Maktoum College of Higher Education for another Online Middle Eastern Studies Webinar. Delivered by lecturers from the Al Maktoum Centre for Middle Eastern Studies, Trinity College Dublin, the webinar series is a window into the astonishing variety and interest of themes and questions in research on the Middle East. The webinar will give a flavour of postgraduate-level study of the Middle East, ancient and modern. It serves as a way of learning more about the newly launched masters degree in The Middle East in a Global Context’ at Trinity College Dublin.


About the webinar

Following the conquest of malaria in most of the Middle East in the mid-20th century and the victory over smallpox in 1980, epidemics in the Middle East were events associated with the social breakdown of war, not an element of daily life. However, with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the Middle East (like the rest of the world), was reminded of the raw power of epidemic disease and of the terrible effects that it can wreak on society. As we have seen with controversies over pandemic mitigation measures and vaccination, epidemics are more than just microbes and victims – they are complicated puzzles that individuals and societies seek to decipher and then solve as they try to not only survive but also to move past the crisis to get on with their lives. This lecture will explore this concept by examining three epidemics: the plague outbreaks of the 18th century in Aleppo, the typhus epidemic in the Eastern Mediterranean during World War I, and the COVID-19 pandemic of today. In each case, we will explore the ways that people understood the disease and how their conceptualization of the affliction contributed to either its amelioration or to other unintended consequences as the epidemics ran their course.

About the speaker

Dr Brand is an Assistant Professor of modern Middle Eastern history at Trinity College, Dublin, where he specializes in the history of crisis, disease, and famine in late Ottoman Lebanon. He has spent 9 years living in the Middle East, first while receiving his Ph.D. at the American University of Beirut, and later as an assistant professor at the American University of Sharjah. His monograph, Famine Worlds (forthcoming via Stanford University Press, 2022), examines the individual impacts of crisis in Lebanon during the famine of World War I, and how people coped with its presence in their daily lives.