CfP: Social Histories of Disease, Medicine, and Healing in the Modern Middle East & North Africa

What can the study of disease, medicine, healing, and public health in the Middle East and North Africa since 1750 reveal about the region’s history?

Editors: Stephanie Anne Boyle, New York City College of Technology (CUNY) & Christopher S. Rose, independent scholar, Austin, TX.

Deadline: June 1, 2021

Temporal and Geographic Coverage:

  • Modern” here refers to the period from the mid-18th century to the present.
  • Middle East & North Africa” encompasses the Arab World (including the Maghreb), Iran, Israel and its antecedents, and Turkey and its antecedents.
  • We are also open to the inclusion of other geographic contexts that are related to the ME/NA, such as the Ottoman Aegean & Cyprus, Egyptian and Anglo-Egyptian Equatoriana, Omani East Africa, etc. Please contact us to discuss.

We are soliciting abstracts for inclusion in an edited volume about the social histories of medicine, disease, and health/healing practices in the modern Middle East. This volume will illustrate how the study of medicine, disease, and healing reveal new aspects of the region’s history during the era prior to and during European imperialism, and during the era of 20th century state-building and decolonization. This is a period whose histories have traditionally described social and political history and are, therefore, primarily focused on elites and notables.

In recent decades there have been several excellent monographs and volumes on the history of medicine, health, disease, and healing, which have demonstrated the possibilities of using this history as a lens for social history, particularly when it comes to providing glimpses into the lives of rural peasants and the urban poor; the importance of public health as legitimation and justification for state-building projects; as a tool both of imperialism and against it; and in the formation of collective identities at all strata.

We seek to bring historians of medicine and science, social historians, cultural historians, and political historians whose work touches on public health, disease, and medicine into conversation with one another. We also want to bring historians who work on different parts of the Middle East and North Africa together to identify transnational trends and highlight issues that span the borders of modern nation-states.

Submissions can, for example:

  • Illustrate the means of transmission and reception of “European” pathologic anatomical medicine into the MENA region; especially those that complicate the binary “modern European medicine vs traditional folk / Islamic-Galenic / Prophetic medicine” narrative by demonstrating interplay / antagonism / syncretism.
  • Provide new perspectives on historical events in the region that have been gleaned through the study of medicine and healing practices;
  • Add to our understanding of international efforts to deal with the spread of pandemics and epidemics by illustrating how parties in the MENA region responded;
  • Help flush out our understanding of major pandemic and epidemic events during the era by illustrating their geographic progression through and impact on parts of the MENA region;
  • Elucidate the realities and perceptions of religious festivals (especially local/sub-regional, i.e., other than the Hajj) as potential vectors for disease transmission.
  • Explore the intersections between medicine and migration (i.e., forced migration to seek medical practices, or the role that migration has played in spreading communicable disease)
  • Illuminate the intersections of war and disease, and/or famine and disease.
  • Examine the politics of sex work and public health.

This is by no means a comprehensive listing of all possible topics. Please contact the editors if you have questions.

Submissions from Ph.D. candidates (ABD) are welcome, as are submissions from scholars outside the United States (especially those working in the MENA itself).

Abstracts of 500-750 words (not including notes/bibliography) and a short (~100 word) biography should be sent as PDF, Word document (doc or docx), or Google doc to by June 1, 2021. Communication will be in English.

Authors will be notified of their status by June 15, 2021, with first-round submission of the chapter expected by September 1, 2021. Chapters should be between 6,500-8,000 words in length (including abstract and notes).

We are committed to a quick timeline. A major university press in the U.S. has expressed interest in reviewing the project for publication.

Contact the editors with any questions at:

Contact Email: