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Area and Ethnic Studies > Middle Eastern Studies

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Arabs in the Mirror Cover

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Arabs in the Mirror

Images and Self-Images from Pre-Islamic to Modern Times

By Nissim Rejwan

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.

An Arab's Journey to Colonial Spanish America Cover

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An Arab's Journey to Colonial Spanish America

The Travels of Elias al-Mûsili in the Seventeenth Century

Caesar E. Farah is professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic history at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of numerous books including Islam, The Sultan's Yemen: Nineteenth Century Challenges to Ottoman Rule, and Arab and Ottoman: A Checkered Rel

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.

Army of Shadows Cover

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Army of Shadows

Palestinian Collaboration with Zionism, 1917–1948

Hillel Cohen

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.

Artisan Entrepreneurs in Cairo and Early Modern Capitalism (1600-1800) Cover

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Artisan Entrepreneurs in Cairo and Early Modern Capitalism (1600-1800)

Nelly Hanna

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.

Back Channel Negotiation Cover

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Back Channel Negotiation

Secrecy in the Middle East Peace Process

Anthony Wanis-St. John

Wanis-St. John takes on the question of whether the complex and often perilous secret negotiations between principal parties prove to be instrumental paths to reconciliation or rather roadblocks that disrupt the process. Using the Palestinian-Israeli peace process as a framework, the author focuses on the uses and misuses of "back channel" negotiations. He discusses how top-level PLO and Israeli government officials have often resorted to secret negotiation channels even when there were designated, acknowledged negotiation teams already at work. Intense scrutiny by the media, pressure from constituents, and the reactions of the public all become severe constraints to the process, causing leaders to seek out such back channels. The impact of these secret talks within the peace process over time has largely been unexplored.

Baghdad Bulletin Cover

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Baghdad Bulletin

Dispatches on the American Occupation

David Enders

David Enders has a stunning independent streak and the courage to trust his own perceptions as he reports from outside the bubble Americans have created for themselves in Iraq. ---Joe Sacco, author of Safe Area Gorazde "Baghdad Bulletin takes us where mainstream news accounts do not go. Disrupting the easy clichés that dominate U.S. journalism, Enders blows away the media fog of war. The result is a book that challenges Americans to see through double speak and reconsider the warfare being conducted in their names." ---Norman Solomon, author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death "Journalism at its finest and on a shoestring to boot. David Enders shows that courage and honesty can outshine big-budget mainstream media. Wry but self-critical, Baghdad Bulletin tells a story that a few of us experienced but every journalist, nay every citizen, should read." ---Pratap Chatterjee, Managing Editor and Project Director, CorpWatch "Young and tenacious, Dave Enders went, saw, and wrote it down. Here it is-a well-informed and detailed tale of Iraq's decline under American rule. Baghdad Bulletin offers tragic politics, wacky people, and keen insights about what really matters on the ground in Iraq." ---Christian Parenti "I wrote my first piece for Baghdad Bulletin after visiting the mass graves at Al-Hilla in 2003. The Baghdad Bulletin was essential reading in the first few months after the end of the war. I handed that particular copy to Prime Minister Tony Blair. I am only sorry that I cannot read it anymore. David Enders and his team were brave, enterprising, and idealistic." ---Rt. Hon. Ann Clwyd, member of the British Parliament Baghdad Bulletin is a street-level account of the war and turbulent postwar period as seen through the eyes of the young independent journalist David Enders. The book recounts Enders's story of his decision to go to Iraq, where he opened the only English-language newspaper completely written, printed, and distributed there during the war. Young, courageous, and anti-authoritarian, Enders is the first reporter to cover the war as experienced by ordinary Iraqis. Deprived of the press credentials that gave his embedded colleagues access to press conferences and officially sanitized information, Enders tells the story of a different war, outside the Green Zone. It is a story in which the struggle of everyday life is interspersed with moments of sheer terror and bizarre absurdity: wired American troops train their guns on terrified civilians; Iraqi musicians prepare a recital for Coalition officials who never show; traveling clowns wreak havoc in a Baghdad police station. Orphans and intellectuals, activists and insurgents: Baghdad Bulletin depicts the unseen complexity of Iraqi society and gives us a powerful glimpse of a new kind of warfare, one that coexists with-and sometimes tragically veers into-the everyday rhythms of life.

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Barriers to Democracy

The Other Side of Social Capital in Palestine and the Arab World

Amaney A. Jamal

Democracy-building efforts from the early 1990s on have funneled billions of dollars into nongovernmental organizations across the developing world, with the U.S. administration of George W. Bush leading the charge since 2001. But are many such "civil society" initiatives fatally flawed? Focusing on the Palestinian West Bank and the Arab world, Barriers to Democracy mounts a powerful challenge to the core tenet of civil society initiatives: namely, that public participation in private associations necessarily yields the sort of civic engagement that, in turn, sustains effective democratic institutions. Such assertions tend to rely on evidence from states that are democratic to begin with. Here, Amaney Jamal investigates the role of civic associations in promoting democratic attitudes and behavioral patterns in contexts that are less than democratic.

Jamal argues that, in state-centralized environments, associations can just as easily promote civic qualities vital to authoritarian citizenship--such as support for the regime in power. Thus, any assessment of the influence of associational life on civic life must take into account political contexts, including the relationships among associations, their leaders, and political institutions.

Barriers to Democracy both builds on and critiques the multifaceted literature that has emerged since the mid-1990s on associational life and civil society. By critically examining associational life in the West Bank during the height of the Oslo Peace Process (1993-99), and extending her findings to Morocco, Egypt, and Jordan, Jamal provides vital new insights into a timely issue.

Becoming Israeli Cover

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Becoming Israeli

National Ideals and Everyday Life in the 1950s

Anat Helman

With a light touch and many wonderful illustrations, historian Anat Helman investigates “life on the ground” in Israel during the first years of statehood. She looks at how citizens—natives of the land, longtime immigrants, and newcomers—coped with the state’s efforts to turn an incredibly diverse group of people into a homogenous whole. She investigates the efforts to make Hebrew the lingua franca of Israel, the uses of humor, and the effects of a constant military presence, along with such familiar aspects of daily life as communal dining on the kibbutz, the nightmare of trying to board a bus, and moviegoing as a form of escapism.  In the process Helman shows how ordinary people adapted to the standards and rules of the political and cultural elites and negotiated the chaos of early statehood.

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Becoming Turkish

Nationalist Reforms and Cultural Negotiations in Early Republican Turkey, 1923-1945

by Hale Yilmaz

“Becoming Turkish” seeks to provide a better understanding of the modernist nation-building processes in post-Ottoman Turkey through a rare perspective in the field that stresses the social and cultural dimensions and everyday negotiations that occurred during the leadership of Mustafa Kemal. Employing an interdisciplinary approach and drawing on a wide range of primary sources, including new archival evidence and oral histories, Yilmaz’s work delineates several specific examples of how individuals become Turkish citizens. She examines how Republican reforms were implemented and how they effected social and cultural change. By focusing on four specific areas of the state’s attempt to produce a new “Turk” and a modern Turkish nation (men’s clothing, women’s dress, language, and celebrations), she shows how individuals and communities received, reacted to, negotiated, and experienced reforms in their everyday lives. While the emphasis of the book is on the Turkish experience specifically, “Becoming Turkish” offers rich insights into similar processes throughout the Middle East and in other Islamic and colonial contexts which will arguably become more relevant every day.

The Berber Identity Movement and the Challenge to North African States Cover

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The Berber Identity Movement and the Challenge to North African States

By Bruce Maddy-Weitzman

Like many indigenous groups that have endured centuries of subordination, the Berber/Amazigh peoples of North Africa are demanding linguistic and cultural recognition and the redressing of injustices. Indeed, the movement seeks nothing less than a refashioning of the identity of North African states, a rewriting of their history, and a fundamental change in the basis of collective life. In so doing, it poses a challenge to the existing political and sociocultural orders in Morocco and Algeria, while serving as an important counterpoint to the oppositionist Islamist current. This is the first book-length study to analyze the rise of the modern ethnocultural Berber/Amazigh movement in North Africa and the Berber diaspora. Bruce Maddy-Weitzman begins by tracing North African history from the perspective of its indigenous Berber inhabitants and their interactions with more powerful societies, from Hellenic and Roman times, through a millennium of Islam, to the era of Western colonialism. He then concentrates on the marginalization and eventual reemergence of the Berber question in independent Algeria and Morocco, against a background of the growing crisis of regime legitimacy in each country. His investigation illuminates many issues, including the fashioning of official national narratives and policies aimed at subordinating Berbers in an Arab nationalist and Islamic-centered universe; the emergence of a counter-movement promoting an expansive Berber “imagining” that emphasizes the rights of minority groups and indigenous peoples; and the international aspects of modern Berberism.

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