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Dispatches on Militant Democracy in the Middle East
The 2011 eruptions of popular discontent across the Arab world, popularly dubbed the Arab Spring, were local manifestations of a regional mass movement for democracy, freedom, and human dignity. Authoritarian regimes were either overthrown or put on notice that the old ways of oppressing their subjects would no longer be tolerated. These essays from Middle East Report-–the leading source of timely reporting and insightful analysis of the region–cover events in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Syria, and Yemen. Written for a broad audience of students, policymakers, media analysts, and general readers, the collection reveals the underlying causes of the revolts by identifying key trends during the last two decades leading up to the recent insurrections.
The Travels of Elias al-Mûsili in the Seventeenth Century
In 1905, the Jesuit scholar Antûn Rabbât discovered the writings of Elias-al- Mûsili in a Jacobite diocese in Aleppo, Syria. al- Mûsili, a seventeenth century Arab and priest of the Chaldean Church, traveled widely across colonial Spanish America becoming the first person to visit the Americas from Baghdad. Rabbât transcribed into Arabic and published those portions relating to al-Mûsili’s travels and Middle Eastern historian Caesar Farah is the first to make these writings available in English translation.
Poetry, Public Performance, and the Presentation of the Past
Arabic literary salons emerged in ninth-century Iraq and, by the tenth, were flourishing in Baghdad and other urban centers. In an age before broadcast media and classroom education, salons were the primary source of entertainment and escape for middle- and upper-rank members of society, serving also as a space and means for educating the young. Although salons relied on a culture of oral performance from memory, scholars of Arabic literature have focused almost exclusively on the written dimensions of the tradition. That emphasis, argues Samer Ali, has neglected the interplay of oral and written, as well as of religious and secular knowledge in salon society, and the surprising ways in which these seemingly discrete categories blurred in the lived experience of participants. Looking at the period from 500 to 1250, and using methods from European medieval studies, folklore, and cultural anthropology, Ali interprets Arabic manuscripts in order to answer fundamental questions about literary salons as a social institution. He identifies salons not only as sites for socializing and educating, but as loci for performing literature and oral history; for creating and transmitting cultural identity; and for continually reinterpreting the past. A fascinating recovery of a key element of humanistic culture, Ali’s work will encourage a recasting of our understanding of verbal art, cultural memory, and daily life in medieval Arab culture.
A Strange Familiarity
In Arabs and the Art of Storytelling, the eminent Moroccan literary historian and critic Kilito revisits and reassesses, in a modern critical light, many traditional narratives of the Arab world. He brings to such celebrated texts as A Thousand and One Nights, Kalila and Dimna, and Kitab al-Bukhala’ refreshing and iconoclastic insight, giving new life to classic stories that are often treated as fossilized and untouchable cultural treasures. For Arab scholars and readers, poetry has for centuries taken precedence, overshadowing narrative as a significant literary genre. Here, Kilito demonstrates the key role narrative has played in the development of Arab belles lettres and moral philosophy. His urbane style has earned him a devoted following among specialists and general readers alike, making this translation an invaluable contribution to an English-speaking audience.
Images and Self-Images from Pre-Islamic to Modern Times
What is an Arab? Though many in the West would answer that question with simplistic stereotypes, the reality is far more complex and interesting. Arabs themselves have been debating Arab identity since pre-Islamic times, coming to a variety of conclusions about the nature and extent of their “Arabness.” Likewise, Westerners and others have attempted to analyze Arab identity, reaching mostly negative conclusions about Arab culture and capacity for self-government. To bring new perspectives to the question of Arab identity, Iraqi-born scholar Nissim Rejwan has assembled this fascinating collection of writings by Arab and Western intellectuals, who try to define what it means to be Arab. He begins with pre-Islamic times and continues to the last decades of the twentieth century, quoting thinkers ranging from Ibn Khaldun to modern writers such as al-Ansari, Haykal, Ahmad Amin, al-'Azm, and Said. Through their works, Rejwan shows how Arabs have grappled with such significant issues as the influence of Islam, the rise of nationalism, the quest for democracy, women's status, the younger generation, Egypt's place in the Arab world, Israel's role in Middle Eastern conflict, and the West's “cultural invasion.” By letting Arabs speak for themselves, Arabs in the Mirror refutes a prominent Western stereotype—that Arabs are incapable of self-reflection or self-government. On the contrary, it reveals a rich tradition of self-criticism and self-knowledge in the Arab world.
A Disputed Genocide
The voluminous literature on this tragic episode of World War I is characterized by acrimony and distortion in which both sides have simplified a complex historical reality and have resorted to partisan special pleading.
The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey examines the rich historical evidence without political preconceptions. Relying on archival materials as well as eye-witness testimony, Guenter Lewy avoids the sterile “was-it-genocide-or-not” debate and presents a detailed account of what actually happened. The result is a book that will open a new chapter in this contentious controversy and may help achieve a long-overdue reconciliation of Armenians and Turks.
The Armenian Rebellion at Van presents a long-overdue examination of Van from the 1870s to 1919. As the authors state, "The Armenian Revolt was an integral part of the great disaster that overcame the people of the Ottoman East. The slaughter of Muslims that accompanied the Armenian revolt in Van Province inexorably led first to Kurdish reprisals on the Armenians, then to a general and mutual massacre of the people of the East."
The actions at Van offer a window into the far-reaching events that soon followed in other parts of Anatolia.
Palestinian Collaboration with Zionism, 1917–1948
Inspired by stories he heard in the West Bank as a child, Hillel Cohen uncovers a hidden history in this extraordinary and beautifully written book—a history central to the narrative of the Israel-Palestine conflict but for the most part willfully ignored until now. In Army of Shadows, initially published in Israel to high acclaim and intense controversy, he tells the story of Arabs who, from the very beginning of the Arab-Israeli encounter, sided with the Zionists and aided them politically, economically, and in security matters. Based on newly declassified documents and research in Zionist, Arab, and British sources, Army of Shadows follows Bedouins who hosted Jewish neighbors, weapons dealers, pro-Zionist propagandists, and informers and local leaders who cooperated with the Zionists, and others to reveal an alternate history of the mandate period with repercussions extending to this day. The book illuminates the Palestinian nationalist movement, which branded these "collaborators" as traitors and persecuted them; the Zionist movement, which used them to undermine Palestinian society from within and betrayed them; and the collaborators themselves, who held an alternate view of Palestinian nationalism. Army of Shadows offers a crucial new view of history from below and raises profound questions about the roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Little has been written about the economic history of Egypt prior to its incorporation into the European capitalist economy. While historians have mined archives and court documents to create a picture of the commercial activities, networks, and infrastructure of merchants during this time, few have documented a similar picture of the artisans and craftspeople. Artisans outnumbered merchants, and their economic weight was considerable, yet details about their lives, the way they carried out their work, and their role or position in the economy are largely unknown. Hanna seeks to redress this gap with Artisan Entrepreneurs in Cairo and Early Modern Capitalism (1600–1800) by locating and exploring the role of artisans in the historical process. Offering richly detailed portraits as well as an overview of the Ottoman Empire’s economic landscape, Hanna incorporates artisans into the historical development of the period, portraying them in the context of their work, their families, and their social relations. These artisans developed a variety of capitalist practices, both as individuals and collectively in their guilds. Responding to the demands of expanding commercial environments in Egypt and Europe, artisans found ways to adapt both production techniques and the organization of production. Hanna details the ways in which artisans defied the constraints of the guilds and actively engaged in the markets of Europe, demonstrating how Egyptian artisan production was able to compete and survive in a landscape of growing European trade.
Venezuela, Iran & the Threat to America