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History > Middle Eastern History

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Coffins on Our Shoulders Cover

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Coffins on Our Shoulders

The Experience of the Palestinian Citizens of Israel

Dan Rabinowitz

This highly original historical and political analysis of the Arab-Israeli conflict combines the unique perspectives of two prominent segments of the Middle Eastern puzzle: Israeli Jews and the Palestinian citizens of Israel. Written jointly by an Israeli anthropologist and a Palestinian family therapist born weeks apart to two families from Haifa, Coffins on Our Shoulders merges the personal and the political as it explores the various stages of the conflict, from the 1920s to the present. The authors weave vivid accounts and vignettes of family history into a sophisticated multidisciplinary analysis of the political drama that continues to unfold in the Middle East. Offering an authoritative inquiry into the traumatic events of October 2000, when thirteen Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed by Israeli police during political demonstrations, the book culminates in a radical and thought-provoking blueprint for reform that few in Israel, in the Arab world, and in the West can afford to ignore.

Communal Webs Cover

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Communal Webs

Communication and Culture in Contemporary Israel

This book brings together insights derived from a detailed exploration of Israeli cultural patterns of communication, highlighting their role in the processes of culture formation, maintenance, and change. Katriel’s ethnographic examples provide a richly-textured account of Israeli cultural experience, illustrating the potential of a cultural analysis grounded in the study of ideologically-informed communicative practices.

The Concubine, the Princess, and the Teacher Cover

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The Concubine, the Princess, and the Teacher

Voices from the Ottoman Harem

Translated and edited by Douglas Scott Brookes

In the Western imagination, the Middle Eastern harem was a place of sex, debauchery, slavery, miscegenation, power, riches, and sheer abandon. But for the women and children who actually inhabited this realm of the imperial palace, the reality was vastly different. In this collection of translated memoirs, three women who lived in the Ottoman imperial harem in Istanbul between 1876 and 1924 offer a fascinating glimpse “behind the veil” into the lives of Muslim palace women of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The memoirists are Filizten, concubine to Sultan Murad V; Princess Ayse, daughter of Sultan Abdulhamid II; and Safiye, a schoolteacher who instructed the grandchildren and harem ladies of Sultan Mehmed V. Their recollections of the Ottoman harem reveal the rigid protocol and hierarchy that governed the lives of the imperial family and concubines, as well as the hundreds of slave women and black eunuchs in service to them. The memoirists show that, far from being a place of debauchery, the harem was a family home in which polite and refined behavior prevailed. Douglas Brookes explains the social structure of the nineteenth-century Ottoman palace harem in his introduction. These three memoirs, written across a half century and by women of differing social classes, offer a fuller and richer portrait of the Ottoman imperial harem than has ever before been available in English.

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Connected in Cairo

Growing up Cosmopolitan in the Modern Middle East

Mark Allen Peterson

For members of Cairo's upper classes, cosmopolitanism is a form of social capital, deployed whenever they acquire or consume transnational commodities, or goods that are linked in the popular imagination to other, more "modern" places. In a series of thickly described and carefully contextualized case studies -- of Arabic children's magazines, Pokémon, private schools and popular films, coffee shops and fast-food restaurants -- Mark Allen Peterson describes the social practices that create class identities. He traces these processes from childhood into adulthood, examining how taste and style intersect with a changing educational system and economic liberalization. Peterson reveals how uneasy many cosmopolitan Cairenes are with their new global identities, and describes their efforts to root themselves in the local through religious, nationalist, or linguistic practices.

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Conscience at War

The Israeli Soldier as a Moral Critic

An exploration of the moral and intellectual conflict of Israeli citizens who have resisted military service, and of how they justify their choices of action. Israel’s security is maintained largely by civilians in uniform. The chronic state of war in Israel requires that every Israeli civilian serve in the Israel Defense Forces as a reservist until the age of 55. The focus of this book is the intellectual and moral challenges selective conscientious objection poses for resisters in Israel. It is the first psychological study of the Intifada refusniks. The 1982–1985 Lebanon War was a dramatic turning point in the intensity, depth, forms, and magnitude of criticism against the army, and this war serves as the starting point for Ruth Linn’s inquiry into moral criticism of Israeli soldiers in morally no-win situations during the Intifada. In each of these conflicts, about 170 reserve soldiers became selective conscientious objectors. In each conflict, however, numerous objecting soldiers also “refused to refuse,” proclaiming that their right to voice their moral concern springs from their dedication to, and fulfillment of, the hardship of military obligation. Linn uses the theories of Rawls, Walzer, Kohlberg, and Gilligan as a framework for understanding and interpreting interviews with objecting soldiers. By this means, she seeks to answer such questions as: How would various groups of objecting soldiers justify their specific choice of action? What are the psychological, moral, and non-moral characteristics of those individuals who decided to be, or refused to be, patriotic? And how did the Intifada, as a limited yet morally problematic military conflict, affect the moral thinking, emotions, and moral language of long term soldiers?

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Contentious Politics in the Middle East

Political Opposition under Authoritarianism

Holger Albrecht

Scholarship examining the governments in the Middle East and North Africa rarely focuses on opposition movements, since those countries tend to be ruled by a centralized, often authoritarian government. However, even in an oppressive state, there are civil society and oppositional forces at work. The contributors to Contentious Politics in the Middle East reveal how such forces emerge and are manifested in nondemocratic states across the region.

In most cases, the essays offer a comparative perspective, highlighting similarities across political borders. Providing historical context for current events, they examine the sociopolitical situations in Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq, Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, and Algeria and analyze the role of Islam in Arab states' governments and in the opposition movements to them. They also demonstrate that not all opposition forces propose the overthrow of authority and point out the various forms opposition takes in societies that leave little room for political activism.

The contributors to the volume are drawn from countries across three continents and bring backgrounds in political science, conflict resolution, and history. Challenging the assertion that state-society relations are limited to coercive top-down arrangements in authoritarian regimes, the book will inspire debate on the topic of contentious political participation within the region as well as in similar settings throughout the world.

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Contesting Realities

The Public Sphere and Morality in Southern Yemen

Susanne Dahlgren

As a resident of Aden for more than three years spanning the late years of Marxist South Yemen, Dahlgren presents the reader with an intimate portrait of Yemeni men and women in the home, in the factory, in the office, and in the street, demonstrating that Islamic societies must be understood through a multiplicity of social spheres and morality orders. Within each space, she examines the range of legal, political, religious, and social regulations that frame gender relations and social dynamics. Highlighting the diversity of women’s and men’s positions as a continuum rather than as distinct areas, Dahlgren presents a vivid picture of this dynamic society, providing an in-depth background to today’s political upheavals in Yemen.

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The Convergence of Judaism and Islam

Religious, Scientific, and Cultural Dimensions

Edited by Michael M. Laskier and Yaacov Lev

The Convergence of Judaism and Islam offers fifteen interdisciplinary studies that investigate the complex relationships between the cultures of Jews and Muslims during the medieval and early modern periods. They reveal that, for the most part, Jewish-Muslim relations were peaceful and involved intellectual and professional cooperation.

Eschewing a chronological approach and featuring contributions from European, Israeli, and North American scholars, including veterans and recent PhDs, the volume makes many fascinating and stimulating juxtapositions. To give one example, chapters on early Islam and the shaping of Jewish-Muslim relations in the Middle Ages shed light on the legal battles over the status of synagogues in twentieth-century Yemen or the execution of a fourteen-year-old girl in nineteenth-century Morocco.

Sure to provoke controversy and discussion, this volume focuses on a period of free exchange between these two cultures that resulted in some of the most seminal breakthroughs in math, science, and medicine the world has known.

Countdown to Statehood Cover

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Countdown to Statehood

Palestinian State Formation in the West Bank and Gaza

A study of Palestinian state formation in comparison to Zionist experiences. Countdown to Statehood, based on Arabic, English, and Hebrew language sources, analyzes the form that the Palestinian state is likely to take. The book looks at past institution-building patterns in the West Bank and Gaza, the relationship between the PLO and the local Palestinians, and the nature of the conflict with Israel from 1967 through the first year of the Palestinian Authority under Arafat’s leadership. A major reference point in this analysis is the Zionist experience of state-building in Israel’s own pre-independence era. Not only did the Zionist experience serve as a model of a successful protagonist that Palestinians wished to emulate, but both also began as diaspora-based. These similarities and, even more so, the dissimilarities between these two struggles for national determination allow the reader to assess the potential likenesses and disparities of the future Palestinian state compared to its Israeli counterpart. The concluding chapter analyzes the findings in the broader context of third-world state-building by arguing, contrary to the common wisdom that “war makes the state,” that more peaceful routes to statehood lead to better states in the post-independence era.

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