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History > Middle Eastern History

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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.

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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.

An Incurable Past Cover

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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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Inter-Arab Alliances

Regime Security and Jordanian Foreign Policy

Curtis R. Ryan

There is a method to the apparent madness of Arab politics. In a region where friends can become enemies and enemies become friends seemingly at the drop of the hat, Curtis Ryan argues that there is logic to be found. Through fourteen years of field research and interviews with key policy makers, Ryan examines the remarkably stable Jordan as a microcosm of the region’s politics. He traces the last four decades of Jordanian foreign policy in an attempt to better understand what seems like chaos.

What Ryan finds is an approach that is fundamentally different from alliances made in the West, in both how and why they are made. With governmental change and upheaval occurring on a seemingly regular basis, Arab nations approach diplomacy with much different means and potential ends. The impact of this diplomacy is arguably the most immediate in the world today, as conflict with words and conflict with weapons are sometimes separated by mere days.

The topic of international relations in the Arab world is as complex as it is important. Ryan gives the reader the theoretical background, and shows its direct applicability through the foreign policy of Jordan.

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Interest Groups and Political Change in Israel

This book challenges the conventional view of Israeli politics as an ideological, stron party system. Focusing on three important and influential interest groups, the Gush Emunim, the Ihud kibbutz federation, and the Manufacturers’ Association, Drezon-Tepler presents a comprehensive view of Israel’s society and politics. Integrated here are unpublished sources, and material from personal interviews with prominent personalities including Prime Ministers Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, and Minister Ariel Sharon. The book illuminates such current controversial topics in Israel as the influence of the volatile Gush Emunim, the country’s chronically unstable economy, and the continued vitality of the kibbutz movement.

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The International Relations of the Persian Gulf

edited by Mehran Kamrava

For much of the contemporary history of the Middle East, the Persian Gulf has stood at the center of the region’s strategic significance. At the same time, the Gulf has been wracked by political instability and tension. As far back as the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Britain zeroed in on the Persian Gulf as a critical passageway to its crown jewel, India, and entered into protectorate agreements with local ruling families, thus bestowing on them international legitimacy and, eventually, the resources and support necessary to ascend to kingships. Today, the region is undergoing profound changes that range from rapid economic and infrastructural development to tumultuous social and cultural transformations. Far from eroding the area’s political significance, these changes have only accentuated rivalries and tensions and have brought to the forefront new challenges to international security and stability. Together, the essays in this volume present a comprehensive, detailed, and accessible account of the international politics of the region. Focusing on the key factors that give the Persian Gulf its strategic significance, contributors look at the influence of vast deposits of oil and natural gas on international politics, the impact of the competing centers of power of Iran and Saudi Arabia, the nature of relationships among countries within the Persian Gulf, and the evolving interaction between Islam and politics. Throughout the collection, issues of internal and international security are shown to be central. Drawing on the comprehensive knowledge and experience of experts in the region, The International Politics of the Persian Gulf shines a bright light on this area, offering insights and thoughtful analyses on the critical importance of this troubled region to global politics..

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Intifada Hits the Headlines

How the Israeli Press Misreported the Outbreak of the Second Palestinian Uprising

Daniel Dor

In this nuanced and detailed study of newspaper reporting during the escalation of the second Intifada in the fall of 2000, Daniel Dor shows how real events are subject to distortion and manipulation by the media. In an analysis of the heart of Israel's media establishment -- the newspapers Yediot Ahronot, Ma'ariv, and Ha'aretz -- he finds a wide gap between the reality reported by field reporters and the eventual newspaper accounts framed by editors. Led by beliefs, opinions, and emotional responses rather than the facts provided by their reporters, these editors created a platform on which a new and fearful narrative for Israeli--Palestinian relations was built. Yet while Dor demonstrates that the media construct the news rather than simply report it, his sophisticated analysis also shows that no one entity or person is responsible. Rather than a supreme authority, Dor argues, it is the influence of fear, anger, ignorance, and a desire to please and sell newspapers that threatens the freedom of the press in a liberal democracy.

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