The Middle East and West: politics, economics and discourse.

Author:Zentella, Yoly
Position:'Gender, Modernity and Liberty, Middle Eastern and Western Women's Writings: A Critical Sourcebook' and 'Town and Country in the Middle East: Iran and Egypt in Transition to Globalization, 1800-1970' - Book review
 
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Lewis, R. and Micklewright, N. (eds.). Gender, Modernity and Liberty, Middle Eastern and Western Women's Writings: A Critical Sourcebook. London: I.B. Taurus, 2006. 259 pp.

Chaichian, M. A. Town and Country in the Middle East: Iran and Egypt in Transition to Globalization, 1800-1970. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2009. 235 pp.

The West has a history of incursions into the Middle East, crusades during the Middle Ages, Napoleon's 18th century ill fated sojourn in Egypt, the rampant establishment of colonies during the 19th century and military intervention over the last two centuries. Within this context, overt attempts to gain political and economic dominance of the region and dialogue between the colonized and the colonizer have been part of this process. Chaichian (2009) and Lewis and Micklewright (2006) separately address each of these scenarios with in distinct academic disciplines: Middle East, Urban and Women's studies. As themes converge, there is a sense of continuous clashing relationships with underlying verbal and non-verbal discourse among and between genders. These Mid-East--West exchanges contain themes of romanticism, solidarity, orientalism, manipulation, domination, and exploitation stemming from the quest for capital gain and control of Middle Eastern resources and labor.

Chaichian's Town and Country in the Middle East: Iran and Egypt in Transition to Globalization, 1800-1970 presents a historical analysis of Egyptian and Iranian urban economic structures, patterns of migrations from rural enclaves to urban spaces dictated by the economics of colonialism, capitalism, and later globalization. Interspersed is the economic dependency of Iran and Egypt on the West and attempts to achieve independence from it.

For those unfamiliar with the dynamics of the production of labor, Chaichian succinctly and clearly describes "historical periods of economic production and consumption modes" (p. 1) without the jargon. Within these contexts he subtly weaves native history, glimpses of social and political relationships, the ever present critical issues of land and water, and Middle Eastern responses to Western intervention. Expertise in specific disciplines is not essential to follow the discourse. His book is a good background source to the present Middle Eastern situation in which oil and Israel's presence describe America's geostrategic and political advantage.

Perhaps the best illustration of Middle Eastern response to foreign intervention is Chaichian's discussion of the ebb and flow of attempts to gain independence from Western intervention, the factors that led to victories and failures--geography, native political alliances, the lure of Western technology, the concept of progress, the impact of World War I and II on colonial designs, the progressive rise of the United States as a world power--are part of Chaichian's analysis. Embedded here is the interaction between the traditional feudal and tributary systems, and capital investment and exploitation of labor. The manipulation of the latter based on the need for field hands or laborers in urban centers is glaringly clear as are the resulting patterns of migration from urban to rural, rural to urban. The destruction of native industries replaced by Western goods and the break up of families created by a lack of rural sustainability and the fleeing of individuals from their villages in an attempt to avoid work conscriptions by the government, embody this manipulation.

An early form of Western colonialism in the Middle East, from the 11th to the 13th centuries, was the religious crusade that transplanted European culture to the short-lived Latin Kingdom in the East. Motivation for this enterprise included religious hegemony, the quest for personal salvation through service in the crusade, control of the Holy Land, and the directing of Eastern commerce to the "'needs' and 'possibilities' of Europe" (Prawer, 392). Incursions produced chronicles and chansons of battles, victories, of the mysteries of the East and of love between crusader and native. Nineteenth century colonial designs extended this contact as it brought to the...

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