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History > Middle Eastern History

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Hell in the Holy Land Cover

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Hell in the Holy Land

World War I in the Middle East

David R. Woodward

In the modern popular imagination, the British Army's campaign in the Middle East during World War I is considered somehow less brutal than the fighting on European battlefields. A romantic view of this conflict has been further encouraged by such films as Lawrence of Arabia and The Light Horsemen. In Hell in the Holy Land, David R. Woodward uses graphic eyewitness accounts from the diaries, letters, and memoirs of British soldiers who fought in that war to describe in rigorous detail the genuine experience of the fighting and dying in Egypt and Palestine. The massive flow of troops and equipment to Egypt eventually made that country host to the largest British military base outside of Britain and France. Though many soldiers found the atmosphere in Cairo exotic, the desert countryside made the fundamentals of fighting and troop maintenance extremely difficult. The intense heat frequently sickened soldiers, and unruly camels were the only practical means of transport across the soft sands of the Sinai. The constant shortage of potable water was a persistent problem for the troops; one soldier recalled, "It is impossible to realize the depth a man will sink to endeavor to appease the terrible horror of thirst." The voices of these British soldiers offer a forgotten perspective of the Great War, describing not only the physical and psychological toll of combat but the daily struggles of soldiers who were stationed in an unfamiliar environment that often proved just as antagonistic as the enemy. A soldier of the Dorset Yeomanry, stationed in Egypt, wrote: "There are three sounds in Egypt which never cease -- the creaking of the waterwheels, the song of the frogs, and the buzz of flies.... Letter writing is an impossibility in the evening, for as soon as the sun goes down, if a lamp is lighted, the air all round is thick with little grey sand-flies which bite disgustingly." Using archival records, many from the Imperial War Museum in London, England, Woodward paints a vivid picture of the mayhem, terror, boredom, filth, and sacrifice that marked the daily life of British soldiers in the Middle East. In telling the story of these soldiers, Woodward provides a personal history of a campaign that laid the groundwork for the continuing turmoil in the Middle East.

How Happy to Call Oneself a Turk Cover

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How Happy to Call Oneself a Turk

Provincial Newspapers and the Negotiation of a Muslim National Identity

By Gavin D. Brockett

The modern nation-state of Turkey was established in 1923, but when and how did its citizens begin to identify themselves as Turks? Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Turkey’s founding president, is almost universally credited with creating a Turkish national identity through his revolutionary program to “secularize” the former heartland of the Ottoman Empire. Yet, despite Turkey’s status as the lone secular state in the Muslim Middle East, religion remains a powerful force in Turkish society, and the country today is governed by a democratically elected political party with a distinctly religious (Islamist) orientation. In this history, Gavin D. Brockett takes a fresh look at the formation of Turkish national identity, focusing on the relationship between Islam and nationalism and the process through which a “religious national identity” emerged. Challenging the orthodoxy that Atatürk and the political elite imposed a sense of national identity from the top down, Brockett examines the social and political debates in provincial newspapers from around the country. He shows that the unprecedented expansion of print media in Turkey between 1945 and 1954, which followed the end of strict, single-party authoritarian government, created a forum in which ordinary people could inject popular religious identities into the new Turkish nationalism. Brockett makes a convincing case that it was this fruitful negotiation between secular nationalism and Islam—rather than the imposition of secularism alone—that created the modern Turkish national identity.

Identity, Place, and Subversion in Contemporary Mizrahi Cinema in Israel Cover

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Identity, Place, and Subversion in Contemporary Mizrahi Cinema in Israel

Yaron Shemer

In Identity, Place, and Subversion in Contemporary Mizrahi Cinema in Israel , Yaron Shemer presents the most comprehensive and systematic study to date of Mizrahi (Oriental-Jewish or Arab-Jewish) films produced in Israel in the last several decades. Through an analysis of dozens of films the book illustrates how narratives, characters, and space have been employed to give expression to Mizrahi ethnic identity and to situate the Mizrahi within the broader context of the Israeli societal fabric. The struggle over identity and the effort to redraw ethnic boundaries have taken place against the backdrop of a long-standing Zionist view of the Mizrahi as an inferior other whose “Levantine” culture posed a threat to the Western-oriented Zionist enterprise. In its examination of the nature and dynamics of Mizrahi cinema (defined by subject-matter), the book engages the sensitive topic of Mizrahi ethnicity head-on, confronting the conventional notion of Israeli society as a melting pot and the widespread dismissal of ethnic divisions in the country. Shemer explores the continuous marginalization of the Mizrahi in contemporary Israeli cinema and the challenge some Mizrahi films offer to the subjugation of this ethnic group. He also studies the role cultural policies and institutional power in Israel have played in shaping Mizrahi cinema and the creation of a Mizrahi niche in cinema. In a broader sense, this pioneering work is a probing exploration of Israeli culture and society through the prism of film and cinematic expression. It sheds light on the play of ethnicity, class, gender, and religion in contemporary Israel, and on the heated debates surrounding Zionist ideology and identity politics. By charting a new territory of academic inquiry grounded in an interdisciplinary theoretical framework, the study contributes to the formation of “Mizrahi Cinema” as a recognized and vibrant scholarly field.

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Imagined Museums

Art and Modernity in Postcolonial Morocco

Katarzyna Pieprzak

Imagined Museums examines the intertwined politics surrounding art and modernization in Morocco from 1912 to the present by considering the structure of the museum not only as a modern institution but also as a national monument to modernity, asking what happens when museum monuments start to crumble.
 
In an analysis of museum history, exhibition policy, the lack of national museum space for modern art, and postmodern exhibit spaces in Morocco, Katarzyna Pieprzak focuses on the role that art plays in the social fabric of a modernizing Morocco. She argues that the decay of colonial and national institutions of culture has invited the rethinking of the museum and generated countermuseums to stage new narratives of art, memory, and modernity. Through these spaces she explores a range of questions: How is modernity imagined locally? How are claims to modernity articulated? How is Moroccan modernity challenged globally?
 
In this first cultural history of modern Moroccan art and its museums, Pieprzak goes beyond the investigation of national institutions to treat the history and evolution of multiple museums—from official state and corporate exhibition spaces to informal, popular, street-level art and performance spaces—as cultural architectures that both enshrine the past and look to the future.

Imagining the Middle East Cover

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Imagining the Middle East

The Building of an American Foreign Policy, 1918-1967

Matthew F. Jacobs

Jacobs examines the ways in which an informal network of academic, business, government, and media specialists interpreted and shared their perceptions of the Middle East from the end of World War I through the late 1960s. During that period, Jacobs argues, members of this network imagined the Middle East as a region defined by certain common characteristics--religion, mass politics, underdevelopment, and an escalating Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict--and as a place that might be transformed through U.S. involvement. Thus, the ways in which specialists and policymakers imagined the Middle East of the past or present came to justify policies designed to create an imagined Middle East of the future. Jacobs demonstrates that an analysis of the intellectual roots of current politics and foreign policy is critical to comprehending the styles of U.S. engagement with the Middle East in a post-9/11 world.

Imagining the Turkish House Cover

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Imagining the Turkish House

Collective Visions of Home

By Carel Bertram

“Houses can become poetic expressions of longing for a lost past, voices of a lived present, and dreams of an ideal future.” Carel Bertram discovered this truth when she went to Turkey in the 1990s and began asking people about their memories of “the Turkish house.” The fondness and nostalgia with which people recalled the distinctive wooden houses that were once ubiquitous throughout the Ottoman Empire made her realize that “the Turkish house” carries rich symbolic meaning. In this delightfully readable book, Bertram considers representations of the Turkish house in literature, art, and architecture to understand why the idea of the house has become such a potent signifier of Turkish identity. Bertram's exploration of the Turkish house shows how this feature of Ottoman culture took on symbolic meaning in the Turkish imagination as Turkey became more Westernized and secular in the early decades of the twentieth century. She shows how artists, writers, and architects all drew on the memory of the Turkish house as a space where changing notions of spirituality, modernity, and identity—as well as the social roles of women and the family—could be approached, contested, revised, or embraced during this period of tumultuous change.

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Imperial Citizen

Marriage and Citizenship in the Ottoman Frontier Provinces of Iraq

Karen M. Kern is assistant professor of history at Hunter College. She specializes in Middle East, Ottoman, and world history. She has published numerous articles in such journals as Turkish Studies Association Journal and the Arab Studies Journal.

Imperial Citizen considers the geopolitical necessities of Ottoman-Iranian/Sunni-Shi‘ite relations in the Iraqi frontier provinces in the late 19th-early 20th century through an examination of Ottoman centralization policies, and the impact of those policies on Ottoman citizenship laws and on the institution of marriage.

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Improbable Women

Five Who Explored the Middle East

by William Woods Cotterman

Improbable Women examines the lives of five women writers, all upper-class British women, who rebelled against the conventions of their own societies and lived, traveled and explored the Middle East.

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An Incurable Past

Experience and Remembrance of Nasser's Egypt

Mériam N. Belli

Mid-century Egypt seems to shift its shape in light of ordinary peoples’ memories. In An Incurable Past, Mériam Belli examines collective memory, oral histories, and everyday communications to reveal not just the history of mid-twentieth-century Egypt but also the ways in which ordinary people experience and remember the past. Using official archives, government publications, press reportage, fiction, textbooks, cinema, art, and public rituals, Belli constructs a ground-breaking theoretical framework of "historical utterances" which provokes questions about the relationship between remembrance and reality. Belli argues that such personal testimonies and public representations allow us a deeper understanding of Egypt’s many sociocultural layers in the 1950s and 1960s. She spotlights three topics of vernacular expression in modern Egypt: education, the anti-colonial Limby Festival, and the 1968 apparition of the Virgin Mary at a Coptic Orthodox Church in Cairo. Linked by the mid-century shift from communal life to an industrial and individuated society, these expressions also disclose the contradictory influence of ideologically homogenizing state policies.

Examining history not as it was but as it is remembered, this book contextualizes the classist and deeply disappointing post-Nasserist period that has inspired today’s Egyptian revolutionaries.

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Inextricably Bonded

Israeli Arab and Jewish Writers Re-Visioning Culture

Rachel Feldhay Brenner

    Despite the tragic reality of the continuing Israeli-Arab conflict and deep-rooted beliefs that the chasm between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs is unbridgeable, this book affirms the bonds between the two communities. Rachel Feldhay Brenner demonstrates that the literatures of both ethnic groups defy the ideologies that have obstructed dialogue between the two peoples.
    Brenner argues that literary critics have ignored the variety and the dissent in the novels of both Arab and Jewish writers in Israel, giving them interpretations that embrace the politics of exclusion and conform with Zionist ideology. Brenner offers insightful new readings that compare fiction by Jewish writers Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua, David Grossman, and others with fiction written in Hebrew by such Arab-Israeli writers as Atallah Mansour, Emile Habiby, and Anton Shammas. This parallel analysis highlights the moral and psychological dilemmas faced by both the Jewish victors and the Arab vanquished, and Brenner suggests that the hope for release from the historical trauma lies—on both sides—in reaching an understanding with and of the adversary.
    Drawing upon the theories of Walter Benjamin, Jacques Lacan, Sigmund Freud, Emanuel Levinas, and others, Inextricably Bonded is an innovative and illuminating examination of literary dissent from dominant ideology.

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