Edge Hill University, 8th September 2020

Tremblings and Inundations

natural disasters in the history and culture of West Asia and North Africa


8th September 2020


Edge Hill University


Call for papers

Tremblings and inundations: natural disasters in the history and culture of West Asia and North Africa

Edge Hill University, 8th September 2020

Dr Sarah Irving (Edge Hill University) and Ms Kirsty Bennett (Lancaster University)


Much of the history of ‘the Middle East’ or ‘MENA’ regions is written around politics, religion and identity – themes which centre human ideas and actions. What, though, happens to our understandings of histories, societies and cultural production when human activity is interrupted by nature, particularly on the catastrophic level of earthquakes, floods, volcanoes, droughts and plagues? What do these mighty forces, impacting on all, irrespective of social position, but experienced differently according to it, tell us about societies? How do the ruptures and disturbances they cause re/shape history and cultures, and how do humans respond to them? This workshop, intended to facilitate intensive discussion of shared papers with the aim of producing a published collection, invites contributions on themes such as:

  • Historical or archaeological case studies of natural disaster and social or cultural (including literary, performance, musical, artistic) responses in West Asia and North Africa;

  • Methodological considerations in the study of the history and culture of natural disasters in this region;

  • Natural disasters in imperial and colonial settings;

  • State reactions to catastrophe, and popular expectations of states and institutions;

  • Disasters in religious and political thought and artistic representation;

  • Catastrophic events in deep history, myth and legend;

  • Differential social, ethnic, gendered experiences of and responses to large-scale events;

  • Collective and individual trauma and resilience;

  • Understandings of the natural vs unnatural in the making and unfolding of disasters.


We want this to be a truly interdisciplinary event and collection: we welcome proposals from literary scholars and art historians, historians and political/social scientists, geographers and scientists, as long as they address the core questions and are accessible to well-informed scholars from other disciplines.

An initial abstract (c.250 words) and biographical note (c.50 words) should be sent to sarah.irving@edgehill.ac.uk by 26th March 2020 (this deadline has been extended from 19th March to allow for strike action in British universities). Notifications of acceptance will (still) be sent by 10th April 2020. Draft of papers for discussion should be sent to the organisers for circulation amongst participants by 1st August 2020. Applications from PhD researchers and ECRs are most welcome, and we’re happy to discuss draft abstracts in advance of submission.

At present, catering on the day will be covered and there is no registration fee. The organisers hope be able to offer financial support for travel and accommodation to those without institutional funding, but this is subject to grant applications currently in process. We are also happy to help with personal funding applications to cover expenses and may be able to suggest suitable sources.


with generous

support from: