Benjamin Geer on Fri, 3 Aug 2007 02:59:41 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> the fate of Middle East studies

2007/8/2, Michael H Goldhaber <>:

> First, they are two, not one, becuase educational institutions try to
> satisfy potential students these days by offering them the familiar and
> comforting,  namely studies of their own cultures. This has little or
> nothing to do with helping merchanidsers find what will sell to them.

The two are related; if you read the rest of Armbrust's text, you'll
see that one of his main points (which I didn't quote) is that despite
globalisation, national interests, rather than transnational ones, are
determining priorities in educational funding.

> On the hand, since the Middle East is rich with oil money, it offers a
> fertile potential market for merchandisers.

That's a substantial overgeneralisation.  The Middle East is a region
containing a great deal of poverty and stark economic inequalities,
even in the oil-exporting Gulf countries.  Oil wealth is very unevenly
distributed, and it seems to me that those who can afford expensive
lifestyles tend to be happy to buy the same luxury items consumed by
their Western counterparts.  An elite shopping mall like City Stars
here in Cairo, for example, is full of the same stores you'd find in a
comparable mega-mall in the US, selling exactly the same goods.  I
suspect a few Egyptian employees are all that's needed to put together
the local marketing.

> Academia in the US has long emphasized European culture and languages, which
> nicely encompasses Latin America, at least as far as the dominant Spanish
> and Portuguese cultures. Arabic, Persian, Turkish  and other languages
> spoken by large Islamic communities on the other hand are much more rarely
> known or studied in most universities or by most faculties.

Doesn't this amount to saying "that's the way it is because it's
always been that way"?

> These countries have also been quite resistant to western, christian
> missionaries, unlike the far east in the 19th c. Missionary efforts areone
> of the main reasons that there is an American tradition of studying Chinese
> and Japanese at university levels.

Do you think it has nothing to do with American efforts to get access
to Chinese and Japanese markets?


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