Past Imperfect, Future Tense: Writing People’s Histories in the Middle East Today

With Pascale Ghazaleh’s “Past Imperfect, Future Tense: Writing People’s Histories in the Middle East Today”, the fifth volume of the “Essays of the Forum Transregionale Studien” is now available open access at and in print.

The Essay reveals the obstacles that Historians of the Middle East face in accessing state archives, at a time when archival material has become indispensable to historical research. In response, scholars have developed a range of strategies: some have taken to reflecting on the research process and the difficulties it entails, while others have turned to sources other than the state, questioning the official definition of the archive as well as the narratives and counter-narratives it has engendered. Are these adequate responses to the discursive and physical violence researchers must endure? Or do such strategies merely further empower security and market forces in their assault on the production of academic knowledge?

Pascale Ghazaleh is an Associate Professor of History at the American University in Cairo. She specializes in Ottoman history and nineteenth-century Egypt. She received her PhD in History from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), Paris. She has published research on the social organization of craft guilds in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth century Egypt, and on the material culture and social networks of merchants in Cairo during the same period. During her time as a EUME Fellow, she is working on a project about ownership practices and their relation to the constitution of national resources in late nineteenth-century Egypt. In the academic year 2017/18 and in summer 2019, she is a EUME Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and associated with the Center for Global History at Freie Universität Berlin.

Please find Pascale Ghazaleh’s Essay open access at or download the PDF here. For printed copies, please contact


Citation: Past Imperfect, Future Tense: Writing People’s Histories in the Middle East Today, in: TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research, 29.08.2019,

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