While historians have of yet paid little attention to the history of modern death within transient and transnational communities, such literature is practically absent for the history of the Middle East and North Africa. My project seeks to fill in this gap as it explores largely uncharted historical territory. I bring together areas of research that have been studied in isolation from one another. I use a multidisciplinary, transnational, transcultural approach to the history of death and dying that binds past and present, Europe and Asia, and varied (Christian, Jewish, and Muslim) religious and cultural traditions. I use not only historical, but also ethnographic, and sociological research methods. At the end, a study of transnational death provides a new lens on life, on the history of mobility, and on the networks that connects culture, technology, and politics. My overall project tackles diverse facets of death and dying, including international legislation, science and technology, theology and religious practices, civil and military cemeteries, and memorial and burial politics. With research on the first part of my book project virtually completed, and given IMéRA support, I will turn to the second part, which addresses the changes brought about in eschatological beliefs, and mortuary practices and imaginations, in postcolonial spaces. The large drivers of change are science and technology, but also migration and the market economy. I intend to tackle the international funerary industry and its ancillary arts of body conservation, alteration, and beautification.
BIO: Mériam N. Belli received her PhD in Middle East history from Georgetown University in 2005. Between 2005 and 2008, Mériam Belli taught at Georgetown University; for Pepperdine University's internship program in Washington, DC; and at MIT, Cambridge, Mass. She joined the History Department at the University of Iowa in the fall of 2008. She specializes in the social and cultural history of the Arab Middle East. She earned an M.A. and a DEA (post-Masters thesis) in history at INALCO, Paris, France. Her book, An Incurable Past: Nasser's Egypt Now and Then (University Press of Florida, 2013) explores the 1950s-1960s and their representations within Egyptian society through stories of schooling (national memory); war and effigy-burning on the Suez Canal (local memories); and the apparition of the Virgin Mary (communitarian memories). She is presently working on a transnational, transcultural history of death and dying, that has for purpose to explore modern immaterial and material boundaries in the Mediterranean (Europe, North Africa, and Southwest Asia) from the late 19th-century onward.