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Mediterranean Quarterly 15.1 (2004) 119-123
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Eugene Rogan, Editor: Outside In: On the Margins of the Modern Middle East . London/New York: I. B. Tauris, 2002. 263 pages. ISBN 1-86064-698-0. $65.00.
This book is part of a series published by I. B. Tauris on the Islamic Mediterranean. As described by the publisher, "This series, involving some of the leading experts on the Middle East, focuses on the relationship between the individual and society in the Islamic Mediterranean, covering everything from literature to economics and casting its methodological net wide across the humanistic disciplines." One can hardly think of a more important region for discourse today, no more so than because it is the publisher's aim to tap a "hitherto overlooked area of scholarship," as well.
Outside In: On the Margins of the Modern Middle East, edited by Eugene Rogan of St. Antony's College, Oxford, is published in association with the European Science Foundation at Strasbourg, which has organized various workshops and conferences in a project on "Individual and Society in the Mediterranean Muslim World." This volume, focusing on "marginality derived from a broader discussion of norms and resistance in law and society and our shared interest in those who did not fit within the parameters of accepted social norms" (Rogan's introduction), has been produced by ten participants in these study programs.
Marginality is an important division of what is called "history from below," historical research into the lives of common people—grassroots or non-elite social history.
An illustrious catalogue of historians, social and political philosophers, novelists, and others have worked in this area since the French Revolution. In the course of just over two hundred years, important subdivisions within this historiography have appeared—among others, Marxism and socialism more broadly, women's history, postcolonial "subaltern" studies, and that research influenced by Michel Foucault. [End Page 119]
The essays in this volume, according to Rogan, "fall into four thematic fields": (1) patterns of consumption (evolution of drinking habits in Istanbul in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries); (2) institutions of state, law, and society that confine special types of persons outside normal community interactions (prisons in nineteenth-century Egypt, the Cairo poorhouse, prostitution in nineteenth-century Egypt, and the introduction of modern Western psychiatric asylums into Egypt and Lebanon); (3) port cities and their populations (migrant workers in Salonica during the eighteenth century, European social outcasts in precolonial Tunisia, and the relations between public morality and marginality in Ottoman Beirut); and (4) entertainers (in Baghdad in the first half of the twentieth century and Cairo in the second half of the same century).
As one might imagine from scanning the above list of themes and subject matter, any reader will immediately encounter more feast than famine, thereby running the risk of serious intellectual indigestion. Five of the ten contributions were of special interest to me for reasons connected with my own intellectual interests or with something that seemed quite unusual:
- chapter 5, "Madness and Marginality: The Advent of the Psychotic Asylum in Egypt and Lebanon," by Rogan;
- chapter 6, "Migrants and Workers in an Ottoman Port: Ottoman Salonica in the Eighteenth Century," by Eyal Ginio of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem;
- chapter 7, "Marginality and Migration: Europe's Social Outcasts in Precolonial Tunisia, 1830-81," by Julia Clancy-Smith of the University of Arizona;
- chapter 8, "Public Morality and Marginality in Fin-de-siècle Beirut," by Jens Hanssen of the University of Erlangen; and
- chapter 10, "Shifting Narratives on Marginality: Female Entertainers in Twentieth-Century Egypt," by Karin van Nieuwkerk of the University of Nijmegen.
"A new notion of madness," writes Eugene Rogan, "was introduced to the Middle East towards the end of the nineteenth century. European missionaries and medical practitioners, caught up in the enthusiasm for the new branch of medicine known as psychiatry, were appalled by the treatment of those who fitted their definitions of insanity." Modern psychiatric asylums were introduced in Egypt and Lebanon under the norms of European medicine rather than through local normative guidance by...