Sunday, March 1, 2009

Is There a "Middle East" ?

We are starting to hear of things like a “Middle Eastern” cuisine, people from the “Middle East” a “Middle Easterner” “Middle Eastern Societies” Middle East this Middle East That.
So what is the Middle East ?

Apparently there is not a consensus among social scientists on what does constitute the Middle East Some include Afghanistan in it other don’t. and we also have heard of “the Greater Middle East” initiative by George Bush which is a big farce just as its name.
Obviously The “Middle East” is supposed to be chunk of land and all what’s in it. Yet this is not a term coined by the inhabitants of those lands nor was it out of the academic and intellectual traditions of its people. It is an occidental term imposed on the region with its contexts and implicit interests.

Regardless of how conscious or unconscious the term is used it serves several functions
1- to imply that Israel is a natural member of this geographical location
2- to imply similarities between all these states that are not shared elsewhere.
3- it strips the region from its identity, Namely Islamic. And thus the term intrinsically fragments the Islamic world.
4- it Dissolves differences between Arab and non Arab states thus inherently down playing the distinction.

It Is Ironic that when we say the West we also imply Australia and New Zealand but also not Mexico (which is technically in the west). so the West is actually an identity not just a relative geographic location but when we say the Middle East?….. Nothing is implied but a geographical location (Arab states Plus Turkey Israel and Iran). This is at least the proposition in social sciences and namely Political Science with all of its branches.

The Term finds itself in the inherit difference in power relations. The West is in dominance and so it chooses the way in which it wants to coin the world around it and address peoples the way it wants to address them the way it wants to view them, in the way it wants them to view themselves. The term finds its way through academic imperialism which then finds its way in westernized and conforming academic institutions in the region. And that is why before the Gulf War ( Final Blow to Arab Nationalism) we never heard of Arabs saying the “Middle East” (ash-Sharq al Awsat). Similarly you don’t hear the term being used on Alajazeera ( more Arabist/Islam sympathetic) or perhaps rarely, unlike Alarabiyah (secular fundamentalists/ “liberalists”/westernized) which uses it frequently.

In other words


x l said...

I've never heard of fish oil for Vitamin D, but I may try that. In general, I need to start taking vitamins again. I was on a regimen of 15000 units of Vitamin D for a while, and I was also on Levothyroxine (for hypothyroid). I've been off both for a while now. And I need lots of green, leafy vegetables.

RE your post, I've always been confused by this myself. I assumed that it was just based on geography, but as you mentioned, I always wondered why "Western" encompassed the US but pretty much no other countries in the Western Hemisphere, and industrialised nations that are on the other side of the world and that are still, in a few ways, culturally different from the US. I use the term "Middle Eastern," though, just out of its common usage. But it really depends on with whom I'm talking.

Anonymous said...

Good blog brother. So true. It is a stereotype or image not location. Keep up the good thinking.

Asalaam alaikum

usamah abdul raheem

MASS said...

x l
do that that and start working out
leafy veggies are a must, I try to have 2 serves of water cress everyday.

the "West" does encompass more than the U.S when we say it.
Australia and New Zealand are not in the west but still considered western unless we want to make them the far west where they come before the U.S on the map.

this is true in the Media but in social science journals this is not the case although still academics fall into ethnocentric generalizations of the "Middle East" having a "culture of violence" and what not

Wahhabi Backward Mullah said...

keep the body-building stuff coming dude! I can relate to skinny brothers with tilted backs!! lol

MASS said...

More Muslim Muscle.

and I totally disaprove of your blogger name.

"Wahhabies" are progressive Fundamentalists!

Wahhabi Backward Mullah said...

haha. And what exactly is a progressive fundamentalist? My intention to use that name was to shatter stereotypes, to break the mental boundaries, to destroy the images we make of a certain group of people by associating such names. I am not a "wahhabi." People who call themselves "wahhabi," I am sure they will shun me. People who call themselves "anti-Wahhabi," they will shun me too.