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Daniel Lerner

Daniel Lerner

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Published by: jobvio on Mar 06, 2009
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Kathleen MorseMEST 569Midterm Paper Jennifer Derr 
MorseOctober 21
, 2007It could be within a brief moment, the idea of Middle East studies would stimulate one’s mind tothink of studying the tanned skin of a Bedouin against the desert sand, the beauty of Arabic calligraphy or the entrancing sound of an oud in a smoky café. Yet, how does one begin to study this region professionallywith credibility? What are the roots of this discourse that enable a truthful and unbiased description(depiction)and/or report on how an Arab lives in Saudi Arabia or how an Egyptian lives in Assiut? Theroots are very significant and interesting. To study the region, one must be intimate with thediscourse’sinfancy, its evolution, and the steps it has taken to get to where it is in this present time (the last two soundredundant…what’s the difference between evolution and steps?).Although the shifts in Middle East studiesare complex—it has proven easy to see a momentous change in the way scholars now attempt to completeaccurate accounts of the Middle East. The beginnings were very textual and the discourse was labeledOrientalism. The scholars, rather the Orientalists, were skillful people, trained extremely well in MiddleEast languages. Yet, they failed to encapsulate the true identity of the region. However, through time,scholarly criticism and study, Middle EastStudieshas transformed into a more comprehensive and carefulstudy—not without faults respectively, but considerably better than it was decades ago. Chronologically,Orientalism went through phases of publications and then was naturally the receiver of criticism. Thecriticism was rather heavy handed—and thus made the community open to new ideas. Years later, the studywould begin applying systematic theories to the discourse, enriching the past structures by again, exposingthem to new ways of considering the Middle East. One theory which did this, was “modernization theory.”Additionally, the discipline of “area studies” came into the realm and launched another way for scholars tothink about the Middle East—how to study it, how to describe it, and etc. The steps taken for (evolution of)Middle East studies to get where it is(until) today have been considerable. The conception, the criticism,the exposure to new models and new programs have created a better way to comprehend and discuss theMiddle East.Orientalism, a purebred western discourse, spawned the beginnings and growth of Middle Eaststudies. It was a discourse birthed out of evaluations of the Ottoman Empire—and within the interest of thestate and society of the empire, the branch of humanities study came into existence concentrating on mostof Asia, termed “the orient,” the area between Europe and China.
 It was in the eighteenth and nineteenthcenturies however that western scholars truly specialized in the field and hence coined the discourse
 —and with mainly one predominate religion in the Orient, Orientalism tended to overlyconcentrate on Islam and use the religion as the root of analysis.
Crucially relevant to the chronicle of Orientalism, western imperialism, historically in the Orient, grew quickly as the Ottoman Empire weakenedover time. This imperialism created an academic and imperialistic dichotomy between the East, theOccident, and the West, the Orient—formally, the East verses the West.
“…European identity began to take place just as Europeans’ geographical and cultural horizons were expanding enormously…emerging conceptions of what Europe and the West meant were profoundly influenced by the fact that western European states were simultaneously moving toward a position of global hegemony, exercising political and economic power over non-Western states and people…the inhabitants of western Europe tended to define who they were in relation towho and what they thought they were not.”
This understanding of the dichotomization was and is(continues to be)extremely important for not onlydid it fuel the academic fire of Middle East intellectuals in the nineteenth century when Orientalism beganto scholarly flourish, but this was the main problem in Orientalist studies. The ways in which Europeanintellectuals showed the Orient was habitually entangled with the veracity of the mounting western power over the Oriental lands.
 The first main scholars of Orientalism, one being Sir Hamilton Alexander Rosskeen Gibb who wewill be looking at, were ideological. Their prose and style formed the dichotomization whereas the Westwas superior to the East—so consequently when alternative scholars would begin to study the Orient, their study would be implicit on the pre-disposed dichotomization. The discourse became a routine of misrepresentation of the Middle East, it gave the region no
. The people of the Orient were innatelyconsidered by scholars as entirely different and therefore the Orient was consecutively seen as discoursestudying the inferior others. The understood differences were acute. H.A.R. Gibb, a professor of Arabicwho later ended his career as the director of Middle East studies at Harvard, published many pieces on theOrient. One of his pieces, in particular, was
Modern Trends in Islam
, published in 1972. As a philologist,Gibb used his Oriental language skills to produce academic contributions in the field— 
Modern Trends in Islam
was supposed to present mainly his colleagues with the religious posture and movements of theIslamic community in the Orient.
However, Gibb was a pure Orientalist who deepened the dichotomizationand put the Orient haughtily below the West due to the serious differences between the two regions. Thedifferences were comprised within a realm of rationalism and modernity, the East wasn’t rational nor could

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