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Kathleen Morse MEST 569 Midterm Paper Jennifer Derr
Morse October 21st, 2007 It could be within a brief moment, the idea of Middle East studies would stimulate one’s mind to think 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 professionally with 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? The roots are very significant and interesting. To study the region, one must be intimate with the discourse’s infancy, its evolution, and the steps it has taken to get to where it is in this present time (the last two sound redundant…what’s the difference between evolution and steps?). Although the shifts in Middle East studies are complex—it has proven easy to see a momentous change in the way scholars now attempt to complete accurate accounts of the Middle East. The beginnings were very textual and the discourse was labeled Orientalism. The scholars, rather the Orientalists, were skillful people, trained extremely well in Middle East languages. Yet, they failed to encapsulate the true identity of the region. However, through time, scholarly criticism and study, Middle East Studies has transformed into a more comprehensive and careful study—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. The criticism was rather heavy handed—and thus made the community open to new ideas. Years later, the study would begin applying systematic theories to the discourse, enriching the past structures by again, exposing them 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 to think 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 the Middle East. Orientalism, a purebred western discourse, spawned the beginnings and growth of Middle East studies. It was a discourse birthed out of evaluations of the Ottoman Empire—and within the interest of the state and society of the empire, the branch of humanities study came into existence concentrating on most of Asia, termed “the orient,” the area between Europe and China.1 It was in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries however that western scholars truly specialized in the field and hence coined the discourse
“Orientalism”2—and with mainly one predominate religion in the Orient, Orientalism tended to overly concentrate on Islam and use the religion as the root of analysis. 3 Crucially relevant to the chronicle of Orientalism, western imperialism, historically in the Orient, grew quickly as the Ottoman Empire weakened over time. This imperialism created an academic and imperialistic dichotomy between the East, the Occident, 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 to who and what they thought they were not.”4 This understanding of the dichotomization was and is (continues to be) extremely important for not only did it fuel the academic fire of Middle East intellectuals in the nineteenth century when Orientalism began to scholarly flourish, but this was the main problem in Orientalist studies. The ways in which European intellectuals showed the Orient was habitually entangled with the veracity of the mounting western power over the Oriental lands.5 The first main scholars of Orientalism, one being Sir Hamilton Alexander Rosskeen Gibb who we will be looking at, were ideological. Their prose and style formed the dichotomization whereas the West was 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 reality. The people of the Orient were innately considered by scholars as entirely different and therefore the Orient was consecutively seen as discourse studying the inferior others. The understood differences were acute. H.A.R. Gibb, a professor of Arabic who later ended his career as the director of Middle East studies at Harvard, published many pieces on the Orient. 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 the Islamic community in the Orient.6 However, Gibb was a pure Orientalist who deepened the dichotomization and put the Orient haughtily below the West due to the serious differences between the two regions. The differences were comprised within a realm of rationalism and modernity, the East wasn’t rational nor could
they become contemporary. Gibb states that Muslims were opposed to the thought process of rationalism— and that they rejected the rationalistic modes of reason and “utilitarian ethic.” 7 Additionally he states that Muslims and Arabs are compelled to distrust any universal concepts—and the concepts they developed themselves “‘dualism…materialism’” produce evil and not good.8 Furthermore, they are loosing (losing) touch with the thought of age.9 As Gibb, most Orientalist scholars operated on and within the same premises. Bernard Lewis, another Orientalist, is very ideological and places an unchanging Islam at the soul of the Muslim. This static society will thus retain a problem of trying to come to terms with the west— for they are purely traditional. The big problem is, these scholars are rigid—they aim to take a region and generalize it so much as to strip away individual identity. Gibb, Lewis, another Orientalist Harold Bowen, and many others break down the Islamic society to mass phenomena. Harold Bowen and Gibb produced a piece where they dissected the Arab/Muslim society into categories of study—the village, the family, the industry…and etc. They ended up making large summational accounts (broad summations) and explanations. There was very little identity found for an individual Muslim/Arab living in the Middle East. These pieces being discussed all collected scholarly criticism. Let’s look at the most prominent one however, which shaped new thought in the discourse. The biggest critic of Orientalism was Edward W. Said, who’s book Orientalism played on the idea that scholars were imagining the Orient and held that all elements in Middle Eastern societies were opposite of the West. Because the scholars based their research solely on literary texts and philology, this in turn restricted the degree of truth regarding the real lifestyles in the Orient. The study for Said was a “distribution of geopolitical awareness into aesthetic scholarly, economic, sociological, historical and philological texts”10—also an excusive dynamic exchange between individual authors of western decent.11 The application of disciplines such as anthropology, economics, sociology and history were considered extraneous.12 Why did all these flaws matter—dichotomization, superiority, limited community of scholarly published work exchange? They mattered for they were a “flamboyant operational success” 13 that people infectiously studied from with the stamp of European superior attitude reasoned; “From the beginning of Western speculation about the Orient, the one thing the Orient could not do was represent itself.”14 Could rewards be reaped from such a narrow study? Were there any good things that sprouted out of Orientalism? There were of course obvious pros. They are all on the surface however (superficial?). Orientalism opened
up the world to the study of the Middle East in general. Language skills that were attained by Orientalists could be aspirations for students. The study could only grow to become better—thus, the foundation had been set. Theories spun next in the world of Orientalism—concepts regarding the systemic progress of the Middle East and where the area was heading. Modernization theory was a leading model in American area studies (this discipline we will get to in a moment) in general and in Middle East studies in particular, informing a mass of research and writing on political change, economic development and social transformation, and interacting with Orientalism in complex ways.15 It was a new and intellectually powerful way of thinking about social, political and cultural change which, scholars believed, offered a better way of understanding what the Middle East was going through and where its future may lie. The backbone of the theory conceived two main societies—traditional and modern, fashioned by Marx Weber. Traditional societies are ones in which are agricultural, rural, and are based on kinship. People’s status depends solely on the family they are born into—not from personal abilities or achievement. The traditional societies tend to have a religion that is culturally dominant and an autocratic government. By contrast, a modern society is urban and people advance in life through opportunities and achievements. People are classified in terms of nationality and citizenship—not religion as in traditional societies. Generally modern societies are egalitarian. “Modern societies are thought to be rational, scientifically oriented and democratic.”16 The theory itself indicates a transition from a traditional society to a modern one. The Middle East became “one of the most influential studies of modernization...” and one work, as Lockman states “nicely” paints the picture of how the basis of modernization theory’s way of viewing the world helped to form Middle East studies as a discourse.17 The author of this work was David Lerner, his piece was The Passing of Traditional Society: Modernizing the Middle East. ¶ Lerner suggests that people in the Middle East are united by their shared difficulties: “how to modernize traditional life ways that no longer ‘work’ to their own satisfaction…” such as disorder and poverty.18 Lerner proposes phases through which a society goes through—urbanization, literacy and media growth. Urbanization allows for an industrial economy and most importantly, resources for the inhabitants. Literacy provides an individual with the skills to grow within modernization. The tasks available to the literate are great. When technology is advanced enough, media enters the society—newspapers, movies,
radio programs and etc. Lerner states that media accelerates the spread of literacy. 19 These three factors then promote political participation and voting—democracy comes late into the development of modernization, but Lerner describes it as the crowning institution of a participant society.20 So, why is all this important in regards to the Middle East? The Middle East has been in a constant struggle for some form of modernity. This struggle and/or process of getting to a modernized lifestyle should be studied—for it is directly relevant to how the region operates in all aspects. A simple grocer in the Middle East looking to open up a large supermarket; a Muslim girl, with conservative parents, being enamored by western films, a Muslim man eating pork outside of the Middle East but seeks atonement within the Muslim Brotherhood 21—all of these occurrences can be explained by looking into modernization. ¶ The evolution of ideas in Nadva Safran’s piece, Egypt in Search of Political Community, shows the conflict of Egyptian traditional ideology and modern reality. Safran delves into the Islamic background of the society and importantly how the Shariah organized the people.22 Despite changes in Egyptian politics —the renewed contact with Europe—the belief system remained stationary and unyielding to modern modes of operation. Thus, this threatened their modernization. A gap developed between reality and ideology which undermined the political atmosphere Egypt had reached, for it would be unstable with tension unless there was readjustment.23 Modernization theory involves the study of many disciplines—for it deals with politics, economics, religion and etc. Can we connect this to Orientalism directly? Yes—the come hand in hand for “Oriental” societies as stated, do indeed seek to modernize and the progress leads to new study. This leads directly to the next topic in the arena of Middle East studies—which is area studies, a regional discourse that emerged to study certain areas of the world intensely. Area Studies emerged after WWII respectively—and drastically deepened in regards to popularity after the Cold War. The Middle East, its cultures, languages and history were extremely foreign to the western mind. The concern for this lack of knowledge heightened after the wars. Some scholars state that this placed America in a disadvantage in the conflict with the Soviet Union and its allies for control and influence in the area.24 For before the wars, there were only a few select universities and colleges that offered an inclusive and full discourse on a given world area—never mind the Middle East, “if the Second World War was the midwife of area studies, it was the Cold War and decolonization which enabled area studies to get off the ground and flourish in the United States.”25 Stanley J. Heginbotham shared the same
view as Lockman who was previously quoted. Heginbotham believed that area studies were created due to the sensitivity of the wars. For Heginbotham, the need for regional knowledge with concentrations on culture, language and history is important for America, and through time America will need a greater diversity of area/region proficiency that can serve a broader range of academic teaching. 26 Other scholars, such as Timothy Mitchell argue that WWII and the Cold War did not give birth to area studies—rather, in the inter-war period when there was “civilization anxiety” in the west, which supposedly “turned in response to the study of oriental civilization.”27
Zachary Lockman, Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History and Politics of Orientalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 44. 2 Zachary Lockman, Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History and Politics of Orientalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 44. 3 Huri Islamoglu and Caglar Keyder, The Ottoman Empire and the World Economy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 44. 4 Zachary Lockman, Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History and Politics of Orientalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 56-57. 5 Zachary Lockman, Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History and Politics of Orientalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 73-74. 6 Zachary Lockman, Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History and Politics of Orientalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 105. 7 H.A.R. Gibb, Modern Trends in Islam (New York: Octagon Books, 1972), 7. 8 H.A.R. Gibb, Modern Trends in Islam (New York: Octagon Books, 1972), 7. 9 H.A.R. Gibb, Modern Trends in Islam (New York: Octagon Books, 1972), 122. 10 Edward W. Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1978), 12. 11 Edward W. Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1978), 14-15. 12 Zachary Lockman, Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History and Politics of Orientalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 68. 13 Edward W. Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1978), 73. 14 Edward W. Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1978), 283. 15 Zachary Lockman, Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History and Politics of Orientalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 133-134. 16 Zachary Lockman, Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History and Politics of Orientalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 134. 17 Zachary Lockman, Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History and Politics of Orientalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 136. 18 Daniel Lerner, The Passing of Traditional Society: Modernizing the Middle East (New York: The Free Press, 1958), 44. 19 Daniel Lerner, The Passing of Traditional Society: Modernizing the Middle East (New York: The Free Press, 1958), 60. 20 Daniel Lerner, The Passing of Traditional Society: Modernizing the Middle East (New York: The Free Press, 1958), 64. 21 Daniel Lerner, The Passing of Traditional Society: Modernizing the Middle East (New York: The Free Press, 1958), 44.
Nadav Safran, Egypt in Search of Political Community: An analysis of the Intellectual and Political Evolution of Egypt, 1804-1952 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1961), 14. 23 Nadav Safran, Egypt in Search of Political Community: An analysis of the Intellectual and Political Evolution of Egypt, 1804-1952 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1961), 3-4.
Zachary Lockman, Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History and Politics of Orientalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 121. 25 Zachary Lockman, Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History and Politics of Orientalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 123.
Stanley J. Heginbotham, 38 Timothy Mitchell 3
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