Nassima Neggaz

New College of Florida
Paris IAS
10 months

Research interests: Medieval -Social history of the medieval Islamic world; Baghdad, Confessional relations between Sunnis and Shi‘a, Historiography and narrative strategies in medieval accounts, Identity construction, Heresy and orthodoxy discourses; Modern -Contemporary Syria and Iraq, Sectarian polemics in the modern Middle East

Research Project

Sunni & Shi‘i Memories: Remembering 1258 after 2003

"Just as Hulegu entered Baghdad, so did the criminal Bush enter Baghdad, with the help of 'Alqami – indeed, even more than one 'Alqami.” These words were uttered by late President of Iraq Saddam Hussein and addressed to the Iraqi people in April 2003. They symbolically drew a parallel between the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the Mongol conquest of 1258. Ibn al-‘Alqami, a Shi‘i minister under the ‘Abbasid Caliph al-Musta‘sim bi-llah (d. 1258), was accused of having plotted against the Caliphate by helping the Mongols capture the city. Saddam Hussein’s words led to an outpouring of sectarian narratives in Iraq and the Middle East, notably through social media. A series of analogies between 1258 and 2003 were made by politicians, intellectuals, and clerics throughout the region. A new derogatory term was coined to describe the Shi‘a: the ‘Alaqima.

Despite their predominance in the online sphere, these discourses and polemical memories of the past have not been addressed by academics. More importantly, there are no studies of the 1258 fall of the ‘Abbasid Caliphate and its historiographical and social ramifications. This book examines over 60 primary sources in Arabic, Persian, Syriac, and other languages using a double-edge methodology combining a socio-political approach with a literary-critical approach. On the one hand, it reconstructs the events of 1258 by placing them within the larger context of late Abbasid Baghdad, neighborhood violence, as well as Mongol ‘divide and rule’ strategy. On the other, it retraces the memory of this episode in both its medieval and modern contexts, emphasizing the role played by imperial propaganda (medieval) and ethno-sectarian entrepreneurs (modern).


Nassima Neggaz is an Assistant Professor in Islamic Studies and Islamic History at New College of Florida. Dr. Neggaz is a social historian of the medieval Islamic world with a focus on Abbasid Baghdad and its micro-history. She is particularly interested in Baghdad’s urban landscape, its neighborhoods and the relations between its confessional groups up to the Mongol invasion of the city in 1258. Dr. Neggaz has also published on the modern Middle East, in particular Syria and Iraq and the factors behind the rise of sectarian discourses in the region. Dr. Neggaz received a Ph.D. in Arabic and Islamic Studies from Georgetown University, an M.A. in Arab Studies (Politics) from the Georgetown School of Foreign Service, and an M.A. in Political Science from Sciences-Po Paris. Prior to moving to sunny Florida, Dr. Neggaz was Jameel Lecturer in Islamic Studies at Cardiff University (2017-2018) and Early Career Fellow and Lecturer in Islamic History at the University of Oxford (2015-2017), where she taught Islamic History lectures, graduate seminars, and translation seminars of early and medieval Arabic sources. Dr. Neggaz was a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the National University of Singapore (2014-2015). She is a Fulbright alumna.