• Building “International Goodwill”: American Campuses in the “Near East,” 1919–1964
    Yasmina El Chami

Pamphlet advertising the work of the Near East College Association (NECA), Near East College Association Publications, 1925. Courtesy NECA Collection, American University of Beirut (AUB) Archives and Special Collections. Photo: Yasmina El Chami

This project examines the campus-building activities of the Near East College Association (NECA), founded by the American industrialist Cleveland H. Dodge in 1919, and traces the development of an American geopolitical project operating through four interlinked colleges in post-WWI Lebanon, Turkey, Bulgaria, and Greece. Focusing on the sites, buildings, and programs conceived and implemented by NECA between 1919 and 1964, the research explores the ways in which “character building,” “international goodwill,” and “economic improvement” were elaborated through both discursive and spatial means, promoted through modern and extensive campuses, articulating the United States’ evolving economic and geopolitical ambitions. The project offers new insights into the overlooked influence of the United States in shaping the post-Ottoman Eastern Mediterranean and highlights the crucial and multifaceted role of architecture in consolidating complex political, economic, and cultural interests at an urban and regional scale.

Yasmina El Chami is an architect and lecturer (assistant professor) in architectural humanities at the University of Sheffield. She holds a PhD in architecture from the University of Cambridge, an MPhil in architecture and urban design from the Architectural Association, and a BArch from the American University of Beirut. Her work examines the intersections of colonial and imperial histories with the production of the built environment, focusing on informal imperial actors in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century Middle East. Her research has received several grants and awards, including the Institute of Historical Research Scouloudi Fellowship (2020–21), the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain’s Hawksmoor Medal (2020), and the Presbyterian Historical Society’s Annual Research Fellowship (2020). Her work has been published in the Architectural Theory Review and ABE Journal: Architecture Beyond Europe, as well as in edited volumes and design journals. She is also an editor at Architectural Histories, the European Architectural History Network (EAHN) Journal.