Ramses Younan: The Share of Sand

The English edition is now out by Zaman Books. My thanks to Mourad Montazami and Sonia Younan for inviting me to contribute to this catalogue raisonné on the artist’s life and works. My chapters for this publication are shown below.

“Ramses Younan, “A Committed Artist and Thinker,” in Sonia Younan, Ed. Ramses Younane: Share of Sand, Catalogue Raissonné. Paris:  Zaman Books (2022), pp. 47-74. ISBN English version: 979-10-93781-24-2

“Ramses Younan, Artiste et intellectual engagé,” in Morad Montazami, Ed., Ramses Younane: La Part du Sable, Catalogue Raissonné. Paris:  Zaman Books (2021), pp. 47-75.

Inji Efflatoun in Oxford Bibliographies in Islamic Studies

Kane, Patrick , & Mikdadi, Salwa (2022). Inji Efflatoun. obo in Islamic Studies. doi: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0290

This is the collaborative bibliographic and biographical essay on Inji Efflatoun that I was privileged to write at the invitation by the co-author, Professor Salwa Mikdadi of New York University Abu Dhabi. Our intent with this online bibliography is to provide a full reference and annotated bibliography with links to original archival images of writings by and about Inji Efflatoun (1924-1989), the important Egyptian feminist and artist.

New article on Egyptian artist Menhat Helmy

My newest journal article has been published online in the MDPI Arts Special Issue “Middle East Art: Memory, Tradition, and Revival” edited by Professor Ori Soltes of Georgetown University. My thanks to Karim Zidan for sharing his family’s archive of this important 20th-century Egyptian artist and to Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi and the Barjeel Art Foundation.

Kane, Patrick Matthew. 2022. “Menhat Helmy and the Emergence of Egyptian Women Art Teachers and Artists in the 1950s” Arts 11, no. 5: 95. https://doi.org/10.3390/arts11050095


The rise of Egyptian women artists and art teachers at the end of the 1940s appeared in tandem with an active women’s movement that asserted the agency of women in modern Egyptian public life. In this article, we discuss the art career of Menhat Helmy (1925–2004), a 1949 arts graduate of the ma`had al-ali li-ma`lumat al-funun al-jamila (Higher Institute for Women Teachers of the Fine Arts), located in the working-class district of Bulaq in Cairo, and who was among the first Egyptian graduates of the Slade School of Art in London. In a series of etchings executed from around 1956 and through the 1960s, Helmy produced a visual commentary on the dignity of Bulaq’s residents, with emphasis on the active presence of women in its neighborhood and public spaces. Helmy may be viewed in context with the feminism of her fellow women artists, including Gazbia Sirry (1925–2021) and Inji Efflatoun (1924–1986), and in relation to Efflatoun’s two books on feminist causes. As new professional artists and teachers, they advocated the promotion of education and vocational choice for women. Helmy’s choice of this neighborhood as a subject for art allows a comparison to theories about Bulaq’s development and its locus for the arts for which a multidisciplinary approach is required.

History and Theory of the Holy Roman Empire.

Historians group European empires into three phases:  an ancient period of Greek and Roman Empires that extended into the mid 5th century CE.  A second phase of successor empires to the Roman Empire that overlapped between the Byzantine of the East that continued until 1453 and the Holy Roman Empire that derived as a consortium of Frankish, Germanic and Austrian kingdoms that survived as a coalition in various forms until the abdication of the Austrian-Habsburg dynasty to Napoleon’s invading army in 1806.  A third phase of empires emerged in around 1500 with the modern world system, the conquest of the New World and the production of European colonial empires.   The separate and rival Spanish, British, Dutch, French and later empires of other European states came to dominate the world system alongside the Euro-Asiatic empires of the Ottomans and Chinese.

The choice of how to write about European empires crosses the division of history into conventional theories found in three dominant approaches:  Eurocentric, Nation-State or Nationalistic, and Core-Periphery.  Eurocentric approaches are founded upon Hegel’s theory of European civilization as the root of progress in which Greek civilization and its European successors are superior to their Oriental counterparts.  The national approach is found in Leopold von Ranke, whose nation-state approach positioned nationalism as the division of Europe and with it the division of the world into European spheres of imperial control of influence. Immanuel Wallerstein represents the revisionist approach that sees the modern world system as a competition between a European and other core areas and their semi-periphery and peripheries that are exploited by the former[1].  It is common then to find historians who blend one or two of these approaches, but rarely do we find all three approaches attempted, for the various theories contain self-enclosed arguments that exclude one or another of the other theories[2].

An interpretive survey of the thousand-year history of the Holy Roman Empire forces a historian to confront these theories.  Peter Wilson’s The Holy Roman Empire (2016) offers seeks to present analogies with the contemporary formation of the European Union with the political organization and administrative theory and practice of the Holy Roman Empire[3]. The book is organized into four parts:  ideology and the relation between church and state; power over land in local kingdoms, principalities and national allegiances; and the relative administrative and dynastic control of territories; and a final section on judicial and governmental powers.

For Part Two, the author surveys the various overlapping and competing dynasties. These are grouped into the following: Continue reading

Russian Empires and the Multi-ethnic States of Early Modern History

In the Russian and Turkic Central Steppes, the transition from the late Mongol dynastic formation and its successor empires witnessed a conflict between a Muscovy centered empire that culminated in the rise of Ivan IV, the Terrible, (r. 1533-1584) and consolidated itself into an early modern state formation under Tsar Peter the Great.  The reign and transition from the Mongol invasion and establishment of its empire in the Southern Central Asian Steppelands and interaction, defeat and absorption encompassed a period of nearly 500 years.  The impact and place of non-Christians in this period has been summarized (Khodarkovsky 2006) while the multi-ethnic nature of these empires and states has received much needed attention (Kappeler 2001).  Kappeler’s The Russian Empire: A Multi-Ethnic History (2001) in particular is a revelation for it situates the presence of multi-ethnic groups and peoples throughout early modern and modern Russian and Central Asian history as intertwined.  Kappeler also notes that early attempts at an inclusive history, while incomplete, were mostly ignored or overlooked.  These earlier works included Boris Nolde, La Formation de l’Empire russe (1952-53) and Emanuel Sarkisyanz, Geschichte der orientalischen Völker Rußlands  (1961). Continue reading

German Culture and Society 1600 – 1750

At the beginning of the 17th century, theology, law, medicine, astronomy, mathematics, and music were favored subjects of interest.  An exemplary German astronomer of this period was Johann Kepler. German intellectual life was integrated into the needs of the court, the princes and competing interests of  the Catholic Church, which still held strong influence in Bavaria and Southern Germany, and the Lutheran areas where the local princes variously supported research into mathematics, medicine, science and military arts. In the aftermath of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) Prussia was reorganized along the lines of this pre-war configurations of principalities and aristocratic privileges of the landed elite.  Prussian rivalry over the Baltic trade led to episodic wars through the later 17th century and into the Seven Years War.

By the early 18th century we find the establishment of numerous academies of science and humanities that were dependent on court sponsorship and were held tothe preferences of the court. and emperor.   For more go to this page on this blog.

Joseph Needham (1900-1995) On Chinese Science, Culture and History

In a 1947 Conway Memorial Lecture in London, Joseph Needham, the physician and scholar of the history of Chinese science and technology,  changed the title of his talk from Science, Mysticism, and Ethics in Chinese Thought to the more bold and broader title Science and Society in Ancient China[1].  In addition to establishing his medical career and practice, Needham devoted much of his life in an undertaking of the study of ancient and pre-modern Chinese science and technology.  The result of that dedication have resulted in his now famous encyclopedic series that has grown into 9 or more volumes and that has been continued after his death.  The lecture is significant not only for its timing, for it was delivered only months before the Chinese Revolution thrust away the nationalist rule of Kuomintang government.  More importantly, Needham put forth the intriguing and major question facing scholars of Chinese and Western European civilizations:  why didn’t China invent modern science and technology?  After all, Needham noted, China had advanced far beyond its Western counterparts in most areas of science and technology from ancient times through the medieval periods.  Its advances in chemistry, agriculture and medicine held landmark advances and was credited with the key transfer of knowledge in numerous inventions and discoveries, including gunpowder, that led to the ultimate development of modern science, mathematics and technology in the early modern and industrial revolutions of Europe and the Americas.  Further, why was it that capitalism, the Renaissance, and industrial revolution was an invention of the West?

What Needham realized was that one needed to understand the underlying social structure and organization that fostered scientific and cultural development. Out of this social organization came the major products we associate with Chinese technology, including paper making, book making, block printing, the magnetic compass and navigation, and gunpowder. Indeed, the more Needham studied this phenomenon, the more he came to question why modern science and technology did not orginate in China.  To a certain extent the origins of Chinese civilization arose from its river basins and agriculture based around the Yellow River.  While this was not dissimilar to the river basin and delta societies of the Nile in Egypt, the Indus in India and the Tigris and Euphrates in Mesopotamia.  In China, the working of metal crafts and trades, particularly bronze gave a durable metal that could be poured and molded into vessels of ceremonial and utilitarian purpose, and could be used for weapons, both offensive and defensive.  Yet was seemed unique in China was the relative insularity of the Yellow Basin from its Middle Eastern and Western counterparts.  While some Western diplomatic and very limited commercial diplomacy and tentative trade contacts were made with China, for the most part China developed in relative isolation. Continue reading

The Rise of Literary and Aesthetic Criticism in Asian History 250-600 CE

Chinese Classical Literature and the Social Position of Criticism

In this part of my World History blog I am moving away from early modern history to highlight more examples of how the Rise of the West and Western Civilization are given too much credit for the invention of culture, philosophy, science and so on. Now it is certainly true that Roman literature and history became intertextual by the Augustinian period of the late 1st c. BCE to early 1st c. CE.  This means that history writing and literature were intertwined, written histories took on rhetorical styles just as Ovid’s epic The Aenid, commissioned by the emperor Augustus, referenced Roman historical myths and legends (Conte 1999).  Comparisons of early classical Chinese and Greek literature is also worth considering as introduced in this video lecture by Professor Robert Oxnam and Stephen Owen on the Book of Songs.

Chinese literature provides a number of the earliest works of literary criticism.  A principal example is Liu Xie (Hsieh) The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons, written in the early 6th century CE (Hsieh 2015).  Liu Hsieh (465-522 CE) was a Chinese monk and literary critic who wrote from the Ting-lin Monastery in Southern China during the Liang Dynasty (Hsieh, XXXV).  Liu’s preference for classical forms arose from his intensive scholarship of an earlier body of literary criticism produced in the 3rd century Han Dynasty as well as the chronicles of Sima Qian (145-80 BCE) (Department of Asian Art 2000).

Liu Xie (Hsieh) compiled his works on literary criticism during a prosperous period for the Southern Chinese Liang Dynasty.  Some of his writing appeared for the court of  the Emperor Wudi (r. 502–49), who was a scholar and Buddhist and sent an emissary monk Song Yuan to India to collect texts on the origins of Buddhism (Metropolitan Museum of Art 2001). More recent studies on Lieu Xie offer appreciations of the depths of literary technique and analysis (Cai 2010).

Indian Literature and Historical Epics

Among the most developed in length of narrative and in chronological literature are the literary epics from the Indian subcontinent.  Sheldon Pollock’s study of the origins and development of Sanskrit literature as both an administrative language and as an ideology is a pioneering work (Pollock 2006). The rise of the Veda and Vedic literature dates to the end of the BCE period and among its successors, is the Mahābharāta historical epic of conquest and battle and the later Rāmāyana literature and other texts based on the Sanskrit language and writing system introduced by the landowning elite and their court society who dominated power (Pollock, 78).

Several studies note that before the codification of laws, the warrior class or caste developed their sense of ideology and ethics from stories and epics (McGrath 2004).

Early and Middle Persian Literature and History

A third source of early literary criticism is found in Western Asia and particularly in Iranian literature where a pre-Islamic secular literature arose in the late Sassanid period that flourished in the interim period of the breakup of the Roman Empire into a Greek dominated Byzantine dynasty and its Western based Latin dynasty and empire.  In around the year 600 CE we find the Kārnāmak-I Artakshēr-I Pāpakān (Book of the Deeds of Aradashir, son of Pāpak (Klíma 1968, 44).  The history informs us of the origins of the Sassanians, for it begins with the story of the son of a common shepherd Sāsān who rises from the ranks of a common soldier to become the future Sassanian king and founder of the Sassanid Dynasty. This early literature is symptomatic of a landlord and pastoral based court society that demands epics of loyalty and a privileged monopoly of knowledge held by the court. Continue reading

1873-1914 Empires and War

The entire period from about 1873 to the end of World War may be seen as a nearly continuous series of regional wars of European and American Empire expansion.  It came at great cost to indigenous populations and nations that were subjugated into the modern World System in this phase of empire building. Following the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, the two European powers turned attention again to expanding their positions and holdings overseas, primarily in Africa and Asia where these two continental powers were seeking to carve out a position relative to the British Empire, the limited positions of the Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish.  Another period of nearly continuous international conflict, war and crisis may be seen between 1873 and 1919 (Wallerstein 2011). This period includes the subjugation of the American continent by the United States after the Civil War, and the division of Africa after the Congress of Berlin with resulting invasions and colonization of the African continent and violent battles and wars, the Zulu Wars and resistance to the British in 1875; the Mahdist State and revolt in the Sudan in 1885 up to its final defeat and dismantling after the Battle of Omdurman in 1898. These are only a partial list of these continental-wide conflicts.

Historians differ and spend a great deal of time on discussing the nuances of specific diplomatic incidents that precipitated the crisis that ultimately caused World War I.  If on one takes a longer and more comparative view of how competing empires create violent and invasive wars, then this period is better understood (Reinhard 2016).The American position during this period is one of reconsolidation of their continental system and of Reconstruction following the American Civil War.  The continental wars of expansion witness multiple incidents of atrocities against Native Americans in almost all of the Western territories and states.  The brief but poignant victory of the Plains Indians tribes against General George Armstrong Custer and the defeat of his 7th Cavalry forces at Little Big Horn in 1876. Continue reading

My Readables

World Through My Lenses



Blog 500

Knowledge is to Share

US History 20th Century

Empire and Inequality

World History: 500-1600 C.E.

Empire and Inequality

Muslim and Jewish Culture in the European-Latin Middle Ages

Seeking Knowledge in the Age of Crusades and Empire