The Multiple Identities of the Middle East

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9780805241723: The Multiple Identities of the Middle East
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The Middle East is the birthplace of ancient civilizations, but most of the modern states that occupy its territory today are of recent origin, as are many key concepts of communal and individual identity and loyalty that the peoples of the region now confront. In The Multiple Identities of the Middle East, eminent Middle East historian Bernard Lewis elucidates the critical role of identity in the domestic, regional, and international tensions and conflicts of the Middle East today.

Examining religion, race and language, country, nation, and state, Lewis traces the rapid evolution of the identities of the Middle Eastern peoples, from the collapse of the centuries-old Ottoman Empire in 1918 to today's clash of old and new allegiances. He shows how, during the twentieth century, imported Western ideas such as liberalism, fascism, socialism, patriotism, and nationalism have transformed Middle Easterners' ancient notions of community, their self-perceptions, and their aspirations.

To this fascinating historical portrait, Lewis brings an understanding of the region and its peoples, as well as a profound sympathy for the plight that the modern world has imposed on them. The result is an invaluable tool in our understanding of an area that is of increasing global importance and concern today.

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The Multiple Identities of the Middle East by Bernard Lewis is a sharp diamond of a book. It cuts to the essence of how identity has traditionally been experienced by people in the Middle East, how Western political concepts have altered Middle-Eastern notions of identity, and how these imported Western ideas have inflamed political conflicts in that region. "The primary identities are those acquired at birth," Lewis writes. The first determiner of identity is blood, the second is place, and the third is religious community, which for many is "the only loyalty that transcends local and immediate bonds." Lewis adds, "The second broad category of identity is that of allegiance to a ruler," and notes that these two categories of identity were the only ones that existed until modern times, when the Middle East came under the influence of Europe. Now, he says, "a new kind [of identity] is evolving" between the two traditional categories that existed before. This is "the freely chosen cohesion and loyalty of voluntary associations, combining to form what is nowadays known as the civil society."

In nine brief chapters describing these various elements of identity, and the pain and empowerment that has come from their revision, Lewis ranges widely over the recent history of inter-Arab and Arab-Israeli conflicts. He solves no problems with this book, but he does clarify them as well as anyone has. The Multiple Identities of the Middle East is the kind of book that can reframe a reader's entire orientation to a subject, infusing one's perspective with empathy beyond anything an outsider to the region could possibly muster on his or her own. --Michael Joseph Gross

From the Back Cover:

"[Lewis] remains the master of the Middle East universe. He has never been more vital to understanding the Arab mind."
--Leslie H. Gelb, president, Council on Foreign Relations

"This is a book that honors the great diversity of the Middle East, that weaves a seamless web between historical traditions and today's dilemmas. Lewis is a great historian at the peak of his power and craft and literary grace, a writer with a beguiling eye for the historical realities that underpin the modern struggles of the Middle East.
--Faruad Ajami, author of The Dream Palace of the Arabs

"At a time when the phrase 'identity politics' has been trivialized, Lewis shows us how to think seriously about these concepts. As with everything he has written, this book brilliantly illuminates the modern Middle East."
--Fareed Zakaria, managing editor, Foreign Affairs

"Nothing short of a tour d'horizon of Middle Eastern identities, from antiquity to the contemporary era, by the foremost living historian of the region."
--The Sunday Telegraph (London)

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780805211184: The Multiple Identities of the Middle East

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ISBN 10:  0805211187 ISBN 13:  9780805211184
Publisher: Schocken, 2001
Softcover

9780753808740: The Multiple Identities of the Middle East : 2000 Years of History from the Rise of Christianity to the Present Day

Orion ..., 1999
Softcover

9780297818465: Multiple Identities of the Middle East (Master Minds)

Trafal..., 1998
Hardcover

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