3550 Trousdale Parkway, Los Angeles, CA 90089

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A public lecture by Samuel Dolbee (Assistant Professor of History and D Family Dean’s Faculty Fellow in Studies of the Middle East, Vanderbilt University)


Organized by the USC Van Hunnick Department of History

Cosponsored by the USC Dornsife Center for Advanced Genocide Research and the USC Dornsife Center on Science, Technology, and Public Life


In this highly original environmental history, Samuel Dolbee sheds new light on borders and state formation by following locusts and revealing how they shaped both the environment and people's imaginations in the Jazira — the borderlands of what is today Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. Drawing on a wide range of archival research in multiple languages from the late Ottoman Empire to World War II, Professor Dolbee details environmental, political, and spatial transformations in the region's history by tracing the movements of locusts and their intimate relationship to people in motion, including Arab and Kurdish nomads, Armenian deportees, and Assyrian refugees, as well as states of the region. 


As the region shifted from a site of nomads to the killing fields of the Armenian genocide to the center of interwar refugee settlement, the means of understanding and killing locusts greatly changed and also profoundly affected the means for controlling both the environment and people. From this perspective, post-Ottoman borders appear not simply as a product of European statesmen, but rather the clouds of arsenics sprayed to kill locusts all across the Jazira. 


Transcending approaches focused on the collapse of the Ottoman Empire or the creation of nation states, Professor Dolbee provides a new perspective on the modern Middle East grounded in environmental change, state violence, and popular resistance.


Register here.


Samuel Dolbee is an environmental historian of the late Ottoman Empire and the modern Middle East. He is Assistant Professor of History and D Family Dean’s Faculty Fellow in Studies of the Middle East at Vanderbilt University. His articles have appeared in American Historical Review, Past & Present, and International Journal of Middle East Studies. His book Locusts of Power was published in May 2023 with Cambridge University Press. He earned his PhD in History and Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies at New York University and his MA in Arab Studies at Georgetown University. He is the editor-in-chief of the Ottoman History Podcast. 

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