The Multiple Identities of the Middle East

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Schocken Books, 1998 - History - 163 pages
The Middle East is the birthplace of ancient civilizations, but most of the modern states that occupy its territory are of recent origin. As a result, the peoples of this area have had to adapt their traditional understandings of their identity to Western notions of race, religion, and nationality. Identity is one of the things people are willing to kill over, and whereas for most Westerners these categories are not without some degree of tension, in the Middle East they are explosive. In addition, Middle Eastern countries have been forced to adapt their traditional notions of community to outside ideas like liberalism, nationalism, fascism, and socialism. All this has created a highly neurotic region, although, ironically, one of the things that unites the region's disparate peoples is precisely the consequences of these multiple identities.Americans are encountering the Middle East on and off of the battlefield. In this book, Bernard Lewis brings us a lifetime of familiarity with the region's peoples and a profound sympathy for the plight the modern world has imposed upon them. He makes their dilemmas understandable and provides deep insight into their sense of themselves, which is so very different from our own."This book is one of his most exquisite works yet. It 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." -- Fouad Ajami, author of The Dream Palace of the Arabs

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User Review  - Kirkus

An enlightening, if occasionally repetitive, study of the uniquely complex notion of identity in the Middle East. Lewis, professor emeritus of Near Eastern studies at Princeton University (Cultures in ... Read full review

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User Review  - jsoos - LibraryThing

interesting little volume that addresses some of the deep rooted issues in the Middle East. Very nice presentation of long-ingrained cultural issues via exploration of concepts such as nation and ... Read full review


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About the author (1998)

Bernard Lewis is Emeritus Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. His many books, which have been translated into more than twenty languages, include The Middle East: 2000 Years of History from the Rise of Christianity to the Present Day, Semites and Anti-Semites, The Muslim Discovery of Europe, The Emergence of Modern Turkey, and The Arabs in History. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

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