From a leading scholar, a sweeping, accessible history of a key region that provides vital context for understanding the contemporary Middle East. There are lively and informative insights on almost every page. From Algeria and Libya to Egypt and Syria, the Arab world commands Western headlines, even as its complex politics and cultures elude the grasp of most Western readers and commentators.
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Perhaps no other region is so closely linked to contemporary U. A Concise History of the Arabs argues that the key to understanding the Arab world today—and in the years ahead—is unlocking its past.
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In a sweeping and fluent account, noted scholar John McHugo narrates a journey through the political, social, and intellectual history of the Arabs from the Roman Empire right up to the present day. This lucidly told history reveals how the Arab world came to have its present form, why change was inevitable, and a spectrum of possibilities following the Arab Spring.
At a time of radical change throughout the Arab world, here is a highly informed and accessible account—the perfect entry point for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of what has come and what lies ahead.
John McHugo is an Arabist and an international lawyer. The New Press is a nonprofit public-interest book publisher.
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Fourth, a body of work has taken up the challenge of the optics developed by South Asian Subaltern Studies. Stephanie Cronin, ed. London: Routledge, This important volume broaches the question of Subaltern Studies in research on the Middle East and North Africa and includes some important contributions. Finally, in this category, a number of important works have placed ethnography front and centre, engaging debates in anthropology and oral history. Ted Swedenburg. Memories of Revolt.
Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press. This is an outstanding work drawing on oral histories of the uprising in Mandate Palestine to excavate the popular and high culture and discourse of Zionism, Arab and Palestinian nationalism, and resistance from below. This accomplished thesis is a developed ethnography of activism exploring through the lenses of space, temporality, emotion and affect how political activists in Lebanon since maintained their engagement amid disappointment and frustration. Salwa Ismail. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, These two important contributions can be read together.
The first is an ethnography of the encounters between mostly young men and the police from a popular quarter in Cairo, and the second makes the link between this past and the popular uprising of Parvin Paidar. Beth Baron. Two important works challenging Western feminism, Western categories of gay identity, and Orientalism alike, are:. Lila Abu-Lughod. Do Muslim women need saving? Joseph Massad. For the theme of Third Worldism and anti-colonial nationalism a number of contributions are outstanding:.
Laleh Khalili. This important book is distinctive for its ethnographic approach, its tracking of transnational mobilising discourse, and compelling arguments about changing forms of nationalist commemoration. Abdel Razzaq Takriti.
Oxford: Oxford University Press, This fine book is distinctive for its thorough archival research, its pioneering status in regards to the study of Oman and Dhofar, and its attention to transnationalism and revolution. Hugh Roberts. London: I.
Tauris, This is an extraordinarily rich, original and rigorous detective hunt through the Kabylie history of collective self-government in pre-colonial Algeria, situating such forms of autonomy and confrontation in the larger Islamic-Ottoman polity. Cengiz Gunes. London and New York, Routledge, This thoroughly researched book, drawing distinctively on theories of hegemony, tracks the shift from a Marxist-Leninist PKK in search of national self-determination in the s and s to new forms of de-centralized and democratic Kurdish activism by the s.
Sharri Plonski. This is a rich and important book that studies several key struggles over housing, land, and settlement among Palestinians in Israel. It is distinctive for its use of concepts of space and hegemony, and tracks the extended efforts by Palestinians to carve out space against the many physical and abstract boundaries. Finally, for works exploring different forms of protest everyday modes of resistance, armed struggle, and non-violence , important works include:.
Yazid Sayigh. Armed Struggle and the Search for state: the Palestinian national movement This book is unsurpassed as an in-depth account of the Palestinian armed struggle, and notable for advancing an argument about the meaning and function of armed struggle in building up the institutions of a Palestinian state-in-waiting. Finally, an important exploration of non-violent resistance in the history of the Palestinians is:. Mazin Qumsiyeh. To my way of thinking, a number of core characteristics distinguish some of the most impressive and significant research in the field.
The first of these is a belief in the importance of historical specificity. Political, economic, cultural and social contexts, power relations, forms of domination and oppression, issues of memory, path-dependency, core questions about change and transformation over time, and about temporality and eventfulness mark a strength in the contemporary study of resistance. The core point is that resistance and popular, subaltern and minority struggles can only be properly interpreted in the light of the historical context in which they play out, and in terms of an understanding of the concrete situations of oppression in which subaltern social groups are situated.
A sense of history, and a sensitivity to contingency also puts a salutary brake on the excesses of totalizing explanatory theory, on Orientalist and racist essentialism, and on the dissolution of space and place attendant on triumphalist narratives of globalization. Protestors, organizers, and revolutionaries are active subjects: they take initiatives, generate new ideas, seek out and discover new ways to organize and build alliances, and come up with new forms of action, strategies and tactics.
They can also not do these things, or do these things badly, or oppressively, like any other social actor. Protestors are neither angels nor devils, as Emma Goldman, once said of women, but human beings, with all their flaws and qualities. Movements are also engaged in interactions and conflicts with other movements and forces. Much of the best in the study of protest seeks to make sense of these projects, interactions, and forms of initiative, without explaining them away in terms of a series of mechanical determinations or triggering mechanisms erroneously thought to be exhaustively present in static pre-existing conditions.
Finally, the best research, in my view, is critical, engaged, and interpretive, rather than detached, technical, and natural science-oriented. Knowledge is embedded and for some purpose beyond professional academia. Knowledge is not just an addition to understanding the world — but seeks to change it and does, in fact, change it, for better or for worse. The best work attends to the politics of its own instantiation. We are not detached clinicians staring down objectively into a petri-dish full of objects subject to laws.
To research interpretively is to refuse this framework, and to grasp how academics who research, no less than those they study, are situated, subjective beings, with purposes, politics, and projects. Against the snares and seductions of positivism, objectivism, mechanical determinism, and de-contextualization, my own view is that the most exciting work in the field is rooted in critical, interpretive approaches to protest that do justice to historical specificity and active subjectivity.
This difficult task may ultimately leave out numerous works which merit inclusion from different vantage points. Each topic may eventually be addressed by more than one author. Your email address will not be published. Introduction There is a growing literature on uprisings, resistance and popular mobilisation in the Middle East and North Africa. Another introductory work, and a wide-ranging exploration of resistance against systems of exclusion in the region, especially since national independence is: Charles Tripp.
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