The Middle East
Afshin Marashi, Nationalizing Iran: Culture, Power, and the State,1870-1940. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2008. Paperback: ISBN 978-0-295-98820-7, List Price: $25.00; Cloth: ISBN978-0-295-98799-6, List Price: $60.00.
When Naser al-Din Shah, who ruled Iran from 1848 to 1896, claimed the title Shadow of God on Earth, his authority rested on premodern conceptions of sacred kingship. By 1941, when Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi came to power, his claim to authority as the Shah of Iran was infused with the language of modern nationalism. In short, between roughly 1870 and 1940, Iran's traditional monarchy was forged into a modern nation-state.
In this book, Afshin Marashi explores the changes that made possible this transformation of Iran into a social abstraction in which notions of state, society, and culture converged. From the reform of public education to the symbolism surrounding grand public ceremonies in honor of long-dead poets, Marashi shows how the state invented and promoted key features of the common culture binding state and society. The ideological thrust of that century would become the source of dramatic contestation in the late twentieth century
Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, The International Politics of the Persian Gulf: A Cultural Genealogy. London: Routledge, 2006. ISBN: 9780415385596. List Price: £60.00.
Adib-Moghaddam examines the causes and consequences of conflict in one of the most important regions of the world. Bridging the gap between critical theories of international relations and the empirical study of the Gulf area, this book expands on the many ideologies, cultural inventions and ideational constructs that have affected relations in the past three decades.
Key issues explored include:
- the rise and fall of Arab and Persian nationalism
- the international repercussions of the Islamic revolution in Iran
- the events surrounding the three Gulf Wars
- the 'mindset' of terrorist networks such as al-Qaeda
- why US neo-conservatism is threatening regional order.
Provocatively written, persuasively researched and conclusively argued, The International Politics of the Persian Gulf presents the first comprehensive analysis of international relations in the Gulf from an explicitly multidisciplinary perspective.
David Little and Donald K. Swearer, eds., Religion and Nationalism in Iraq: A Comparative Perspective. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007. ISBN: 0945454414. List Price: $22.50 (Paper)
Because the situation in Iraq exhibits some of the standard symptoms of religious nationalism, it seems appropriate to compare it to other cases where the impulses of religion and nationalism have also come together in a highly lethal way. This volume provides a comparative consideration of attempts to manage and resolve nationalist conflicts in Bosnia, Sri Lanka, and Sudan, and examines how lessons from those situations might inform similar efforts in Iraq. In their introduction, Professors Little and Swearer review current scholarly thinking on the connection of religious and ethnic factors to nationalist conflicts, and they demonstrate the salience of religious and ethnic identity to these conflicts. For each country, two prominent thinkers examine the intersection of religion and ethnicity and the struggles to form a nation-state. The volume also contains a summary of the discussion on each country among 20 scholars, appendices providing background on the three countries with which Iraq is compared, and maps of the countries. The central role of ethnic and religious impulses in forming the identity of a people or "nation" directly ties these matters to nationalism and nationalist conflict.
Augustus Richard Norton, Hezbollah: Short History. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007. ISBN-13: 9780691131245. List Price: $16.95 (Cloth)
Most policymakers in the United States and Israel have it wrong. Hezbollah isn't a simple terrorist organization--nor is it likely to disappear soon. Following Israel's war against Hezbollah in the summer of 2006, the Shi'i group--which combines the functions of a militia, a social service and public works provider, and a political party--is more popular than ever in the Middle East while retaining its strong base of support in Lebanon. And Hezbollah didn't merely confront Israel and withstand its military onslaught. Hezbollah's postwar reconstruction efforts were judged better than the U.S. government's response to Hurricane Katrina--not by al-Jazeera, but by an American TV journalist. In Hezbollah, one of the world's leading experts on Hezbollah has written the essential guide to understanding the complexities and paradoxes of a group that remains entrenched at the heart of Middle East politics.
With unmatched clarity and authority, Augustus Richard Norton tells how Hezbollah developed, how it has evolved, and what direction it might take in the future. Far from being a one-dimensional terrorist group, Norton explains, Hezbollah is a "janus-faced" organization in the middle of an incomplete metamorphosis from extremism to mundane politics, an evolution whose outcome is far from certain. Beginning as a terrorist cat's-paw of Iran, Hezbollah has since transformed itself into an impressive political party with an admiring Lebanese constituency, but it has also insisted on maintaining the potent militia that forced Israel to withdraw from Lebanon in 2000 after almost two decades of occupation
Mary Habeck. Knowing the Enemy: Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007. ISBN: 9780300122572. List Price: $25.00
After September 11, Americans agonized over why nineteen men hated the United States enough to kill three thousand civilians in an unprovoked assault. Analysts have offered a wide variety of explanations for the attack, but the one voice missing is that of the terrorists themselves. This penetrating book is the first to present the inner logic of al-Qa’ida and like-minded extremist groups by which they justify September 11 and other terrorist attacks.
Mary Habeck explains that these extremist groups belong to a new movement—known as jihadism—with a specific ideology based on the thought of Muhammad ibn Abd al- Wahhab, Hasan al-Banna, and Sayyid Qutb. Jihadist ideology contains new definitions of the unity of God and of jihad, which allow members to call for the destruction of democracy and the United States and to murder innocent men, women, and children. Habeck also suggests how the United States might defeat the jihadis, using their own ideology against them.
Matthew Levitt, Hamas: Politics, Charity, and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007. ISBN: 9780300122589. List Price: $17.00 (Paper)
How does a group that operates terror cells and espouses violence become a ruling political party? How is the world to understand and respond to Hamas, the militant Islamist organization that Palestinian voters brought to power in the stunning election of January 2006?
This important book provides the most fully researched assessment of Hamas ever written. Matthew Levitt, a counterterrorism expert with extensive field experience in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, draws aside the veil of legitimacy behind which Hamas hides. He presents concrete, detailed evidence from an extensive array of international intelligence materials, including recently declassified CIA, FBI, and Department of Homeland Security reports.
Levitt demolishes the notion that Hamas’ military, political, and social wings are distinct from one another and catalogues the alarming extent to which the organization’s political and social welfare leaders support terror. He exposes Hamas as a unitary organization committed to a militant Islamist ideology, urges the international community to take heed, and offers well-considered ideas for countering the significant threat Hamas poses.
This book was written while Matthew Levitt was a senior fellow and director of terrorism studies at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of the Department of the Treasury or the United States Government.
Israel Gershoni, Amy Singer, and Y. Hakan Erdem, Middle East Historiographies: Narrating the Twentieth Century. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2006. ISBN: 9780295986043. List Price: $30.00 (Paper)
This collection of ten essays focuses on the way major schools and individuals have narrated histories of the Middle East. The distinguished contributors explore the historiography of economic and intellectual history, nationalism, fundamentalism, colonialism, the media, slavery, and gender. In doing so, they engage with some of the most controversial issues of the twentieth century.
Vali Nasr, The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future. New York: Norton, 2006. ISBN: 9780393062113. List Price: $29.95 (Hardcover). ISBN: 9780393329681. List Price: $14.95 (Paper)
Profiled on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, Iranian-born scholar Vali Nasr has become one of America's leading commentators on current events in the Middle East, admired and welcomed by both media and government for his "concise and coherent" analysis (Wall Street Journal). In this "smart, clear and timely" book (Washington Post), Nasr brilliantly dissects the political and theological antagonisms within Islam. He provides a unique and objective understanding of the 1,400-year bitter struggle between Shias and Sunnis, and sheds crucial light on its modern-day consequences—from the nuclear posturing of Iran's President Ahmadinejad to the recent U.S.-enabled shift toward Shia power in Iraq and Hezbollah's continued dominance in Lebanon. The paperback edition features a new foreword for 2007.
David Goodblatt, Elements of Ancient Jewish Nationalism. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006. ISBN-13: 9780521862028. List Price: $75.00 (Hardcover)
Contrary to the widespread view that nationalism is a modern phenomenon, Goodblatt argues that it can be found in the ancient world. He argues that concepts of nationalism compatible with contemporary social scientific theories can be documented in the ancient sources from the Mediterranean Rim by the middle of the last millennium B.C.E. In particular, the collective identity asserted by the Jews in antiquity fits contemporary definitions of nationalism. After the theoretical discussion in the opening chapter, the author examines several factors constitutive of ancient Jewish nationalism. He shows how this identity was socially constructed by such means as the mass dissemination of biblical literature, retention of the Hebrew language, and through the priestly caste. The author also discusses each of the names used to express Jewish national identity: Israel, Judah and Zion.
Danny Kaplan, The Men We Loved: Male Friendship and Nationalism in Israeli Culture. New York: Berghahn Books, 2006. ISBN: 9781845451929. List Price: $80.00 (Hardcover). ISBN: 9781845451936. List Price: $25.00 (Paper)
Some semi-public, exclusive male settings, most noticeably in the military, encourage the production of intimacy and desire. Yet whereas in most instances this desire is displaced through humor and aggressive gestures, it becomes acknowledged and outright declared once associated with sites of heroic death. In his provocative study of interrelations between friendship in everyday life and national sentiments in Israel, the author follows selected stories of friendship ranging over early childhood, school, the workplace, and some unique war experiences. He explores the symbolism of friendship in rituals for the fallen soldiers, the commemoration of Prime Minister Yzhak Rabin, and the national infatuation with recovering bodies of missing soldiers. He concludes that the Israeli case offers an extreme instance of a much broader cultural phenomenon: declaring the friendship for the dead epitomizes the political “blood pact” between men, taking precedence over the traditional blood ties of kinship and heterosexual unions. The book underscores nationalism as a homosocial-based emotion of commemorative desire.
Yehouda Shenhav, The Arab Jews: A Postcolonial Reading of Nationalism, Religion, and Ethnicity. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006. ISBN: 0804752966. List Price: $60.00 (Cloth)
This book is about the social history of the Arab Jews—Jews living in Arab countries—against the backdrop of Zionist nationalism. By using the term “Arab Jews” (rather than “Mizrahim,” which literally means “Orientals”) the book challenges the binary opposition between Arabs and Jews in Zionist discourse, a dichotomy that renders the linking of Arabs and Jews in this way inconceivable. It also situates the study of the relationships between Mizrahi Jews and Ashkenazi Jews in the context of early colonial encounters between the Arab Jews and the European Zionist emissaries—prior to the establishment of the state of Israel and outside Palestine. It argues that these relationships were reproduced upon the arrival of the Arab Jews to Israel. The book also provides a new prism for understanding the intricate relationships between the Arab Jews and the Palestinian refugees of 1948, a link that is usually obscured or omitted by studies that are informed by Zionist historiography. Finally, the book uses the history of the Arab Jews to transcend the assumptions necessitated by the Zionist perspective, and to open the door for a perspective that sheds new light on the basic assumptions upon which Zionism was founded.
Oren Yiftachel, Ethnocracy: Land and Identity Politics in Israel/Palestine. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006. ISBN: 9780812239270. List Price: $69.95 (Cloth)
For Oren Yiftachel, the notion of ethnocracy suggests a political regime that facilitates expansion and control by a dominant ethnicity in contested lands. It is neither democratic nor authoritarian, with rights and capabilities depending primarily on ethnic origin and geographic location. In Ethnocracy: Land and Identity Politics in Israel/Palestine, he presents a new critical theory and comparative framework to account for the political geography of ethnocratic societies.
According to Yiftachel, the primary manifestation of ethnocracy in Israel/Palestine has been a concerted strategy by the state of "Judaization." Yiftachel's book argues that ethnic relations—both between Jews and Palestinians, and among ethno-classes within each nation—have been shaped by the diverse aspects of the Judaization project and by resistance to that dynamic. Special place is devoted to the analysis of ethnically mixed cities and to the impact of Jewish immigration and settlement on collective identities.
Tracing the dynamics of territorial and ethnic conflicts between Jews and Palestinians, Yiftachel examines the consequences of settlement, land, development, and planning policies. He assesses Israel's recent partial liberalization and the emergence of what he deems a "creeping apartheid" whereby increasingly impregnable ethnic, geographic, and economic barriers develop between groups vying for recognition, power, and resources. The book ends with an exploration of future scenarios, including the introduction of new agendas, such as binationalism and multiculturalism.
Joseph Massad, The Persistence of the Palestinian Question: Essays on Zionism and the Palestinians. London: Routledge, 2006. ISBN: 9780415770095. List Price: £70.00 (Hardcover). ISBN: 9780415770101. List Price: £19.99 (Paper)
In this erudite and ground-breaking series of essays, renowned author Joseph Massad asks and answers key questions, such as: What has been the main achievement of the Zionist movement? What accounts for the failure of the Palestinian National Movement to win its struggle against Israel? What do anti-Semitism, colonialism and racism have to do with the Palestinian/Israeli 'conflict'?
Joseph Massad offers a radical departure from mainstream analysis in order to expose the causes for the persistence of the 'Palestinian Question'. He proposes that it is not in de-linking the Palestinian Question from the Jewish Question that a resolution can be found, but by linking them as one and the same question. All other proposed solutions, the author argues, are bound to fail.
Deeply researched and documented, this book analyzes the failure of the 'peace process' and proposes that a solution to the Palestinian Question will not be found unless settler-colonialism, racism, and anti-Semitism are abandoned as the ideological framework for a resolution. Individual essays further explore the struggle over Jewish identity in Israel and the struggle among Palestinians over what constitutes the Palestinian Question today.
Keith David Watenpaugh, Being Modern in the Middle East: Revolution, Nationalism, Colonialism, and the Arab Middle Class. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006. ISBN-13: 9780691121697. List Price: $35.00 (Cloth)
In this innovative book, Keith Watenpaugh connects the question of modernity to the formation of the Arab middle class. The book explores the rise of a middle class of liberal professionals, white-collar employees, journalists, and businessmen during the first decades of the twentieth century in the Arab Middle East and the ways its members created civil society, and new forms of politics, bodies of thought, and styles of engagement with colonialism.
Discussions of the middle class have been largely absent from historical writings about the Middle East. Watenpaugh fills this lacuna by drawing on Arab, Ottoman, British, American and French sources and an eclectic body of theoretical literature and shows that within the crucible of the Young Turk Revolution of 1908, World War I, and the advent of late European colonialism, a discrete middle class took shape. It was defined not just by the wealth, professions, possessions, or the levels of education of its members, but also by the way they asserted their modernity.
Using the ethnically and religiously diverse middle class of the cosmopolitan city of Aleppo, Syria, as a point of departure, Watenpaugh explores the larger political and social implications of what being modern meant in the non-West in the first half of the twentieth century.
Loren D. Lybarger, Identity and Religion in Palestine: The Struggle between Islamism and Secularism in the Occupied Territories. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007. ISBN-13: 9780691127293. List Price: $39.50 (Cloth)
This remarkable book examines how the Islamist movement and its competition with secular-nationalist factions have transformed the identities of ordinary Palestinians since the first Palestinian uprising, or intifada, of the late 1980s. Drawing upon his years living in the region and more than eighty in-depth interviews, Loren Lybarger offers a riveting account of how activists within a society divided by religion, politics, class, age, and region have forged new identities in response to shifting conditions of occupation, peace negotiations, and the fragmentation of Palestinian life.
Lybarger personally witnessed the tragic days of the first intifada, the subsequent Oslo Peace Process and its failures, and the new escalation of violence with the second intifada in 2000. He rejects the simplistic notion that Palestinians inevitably fall into one of two camps: pragmatists who are willing to accept territorial compromise, and extremists who reject compromise in favor of armed struggle. Listening carefully to Palestinians themselves, he reveals that the conflicts evident among the Islamists and secular nationalists are mirrored by the internal struggles and divided loyalties of individual Palestinians.
Identity and Religion in Palestine is the first book of its kind in English to capture so faithfully the rich diversity of voices from this troubled part of the world. Lybarger provides vital insights into the complex social dynamics through which Islamism has reshaped what it means to be Palestinian.
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