Dr. On Barak

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Dr. On Barak
Office: Gilman-humanities, 434


Current and Future Research

I am a historian of the modern Middle East, specializing in the introduction of science and technology into non-Western settings. My most recent book examines how the introduction of new technologies such as the railway or telegraph generated in Egypt unique practices of timekeeping, conviviality, and personhood. Devices hailed in England as driving forces of promptness obeyed in Egypt a double temporal standard whereby a strict metropolitan punctuality was contrasted with a laxer colonial one. Egyptians, in turn, understood this difference as one of an “Egyptian time” opposed to “alienating European efficiency.” Exploring such processes, my study retraces timekeeping practices in Egypt back to their technological and colonial origins.

Shifting from technologies to the energy sources that fueled them, my next book project seeks to situate the adoption of coal and the steam engine in a global context. It explores how the percolation of British coal into the Middle East simultaneously fueled the region’s uneven modernization and, by offering new markets and coaling depots, enabled developments in steam navigation and politics in the colonies and metropole alike, albeit along very different trajectories.

Finally, I am launching another book project, on the history and anthropology of archives in the Middle East. The project examines how an archive’s own history, its changing institutional culture, and the possibilities of access to stored materials all shape the range and kinds of history that may be exhumed in it. And vice versa, it explores also how the different meanings attached to archived documents by political, academic, and economical actors inform the dispositions of archivists and their various clients.


Tel Aviv University, 2012
Senior Lecturer, Dept. of Middle Eastern & African History
Princeton University, 2009-2012
Cotsen Postdoctoral fellow, Princeton Society of Fellows and
Lecturer in the Department of History,
New York University, 2003-2009
Joint Ph.D. in History and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies
Dissertation: Egyptian Times: Temporality, Personhood and the Techno-Political Making of Modern Egypt, 1830-1930
Directed by Prof. Khaled Fahmy, Department of Middle Eastern Studies, New York University


Leiden University, 2001-2002
M.A. Magna Cum Laude, Department of Islamic Studies,
Thesis title: Proper Muslim Names: The Onomastics of Conversion to Islam in the Perspective of the Science of Religions
Advisors: Profs. Gerard Wiegers, P.S. van Koningsveld, Nasr Abu Zayd


Hebrew University, 1997-2001
Joint LL.B. and B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Law and Arabic Language & Literature




On Time: Technology and Temporality in Modern Egypt, California University Press, 2013

- See the review by Robert L. Tignor in The American Historical Review, Here

- See the review by David Arnold in ISIS, Here

Names Without Faces: From Polemics to Flirtation in an Islamic Chat-Room, Universitetstryckeriet, Uppsala, 2006, 72 pages


Articles in Peer Reviewed Journals

“Outdating: The Time of “Culture” in Colonial Egypt,” Grey Room, May 2013

"Scraping the Surface: The Techno-Politics of Modern Streets in Turn-of-Twentieth-Century Alexandria," Mediterranean Historical Review, Vol. 24, No. 2, December 2009, 187–205


Book Chapters

“Times of Tamaddun: Gender, Urbanity and Temporality in Modern Egypt,” in Nazan Maksudyan (ed.), Women and the City, Women in the City: A Gendered Perspective for Ottoman Urban History, New York; Oxford: Berghahn Books, forthcoming, 2014

“Egyptian Dust: The Social Life of Endangered Spaces,” in Xenia Nikolskaya’s photo-book, Dust: Egypt’s Colonial Heritage, London: Dewi Lewis Publishing, 2012

"Motion Pictures: Orientalism and Disorientation in Nineteenth Century Train and Arm-Chair Travel through Egypt," Les tropes du Voyage. Les Rencontres, Aboubakr Chraîbi (éd.), L’Harmattan, Paris, 2011, 311-325 


Book Reviews (selected)

Tomer Gardi, Stone, Paper, Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 2011, in Journal of Palestine Studies, December, 2012 (in Arabic)

Eyal Weizman, Hollow Land: Israel’s Architecture of Occupation, Verso,2007, in Arab Studies Journal Spring 2010 - Vol. XVIII

Sands, Emily, Ancient Egypt, Shuken, 2007, in Ha'aretz Book Review, 2.21.2007 (in Hebrew)  

Goodwin, Jason, The Janissary Tree, Yediut Sfarim, 2006, in Ha'aretz Book Review, 12.27.2006 (in Hebrew)

Almog, Shulamit, City, Law, Story, Tel Aviv, Shuken, 2001, in Ha’aretz Book Review, 11.6.2002 (in Hebrew)

Bechor, Guy, Law in the Arab World, Mifalut, 2001, in Ha’aretz Book Review, 9.4.2002 (in Hebrew)

Ron-Shema’, Gil (tr.), Jalal Ad-Din Ar-Rumi’s Illumination, Hayim Aherim, 2001, in Kul Ha’ir, 2001 (in Hebrew)



Reshimut Me-Hatahtit (Subway Notes), In Ha’aretz (1 January 2004, in Hebrew)



Contributor to HELICON Anthological Journal of Contemporary Poetry, spring 2004

Contributor to “Sha’ar” - Arabic-Hebrew Anthology for New Poetry, 2001



English to Hebrew

"Autocartography: The Case of Palestine, Michigan" (short story by Anton Shammas), in Sedek – A Journal on the Ongoing Nakba, (Summer 2008) 

"Frontier Architecture" (introduction to Eyal Wiezman's Hollow Land: Israel's Architecture of Occupation), in Mita'am, A Review of Literature and Radical Thought (Issue no. 14, summer 2008)


Arabic to Hebrew

Translated a corpus of Iraqi poetry for the Documentary film “Baghdad Bandstand” (directed by Eyal Halfun, shown at the Haifa and the Amsterdam International Films Festivals, 2002)

Poetry by Abdullah 'Azaizeh 

“Sha’ar” - Arabic-Hebrew Anthology for New Poetry, 2001

Tel Aviv University, P.O. Box 39040, Tel Aviv 6997801, Israel
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