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Culture and Dignity: Dialogues Between the Middle East and the West



Culture and Dignity: Dialogues Between the Middle East and the West

Laura Nader

ISBN: 978-1-118-31902-4 August 2012 Wiley-Blackwell 264 Pages

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In Culture and Dignity - Dialogues between the Middle East and the West, renowned cultural anthropologist Laura Nader examines the historical and ethnographic roots of the complex relationship between the East and the West, revealing how cultural differences can lead to violence or a more peaceful co-existence.

  • Outlines an anthropology for the 21st century that focuses on the myriad connections between peoples—especially the critical intercultural dialogues between the cultures of the East and the West
  • Takes an historical and ethnographic approach to studying the intermingling of Arab peoples and the West.
  • Demonstrates how cultural exchange between the East and West is a two-way process
  • Presents an anthropological perspective on issues such as religious fundamentalism, the lives of women and children, notions of violence and order
Acknowledgments x

Preface xii

1 Introduction 1

Indignities 5

Naturalizing Difference and the Great Transformation 14

Comparison, Ethnography, and History 17

2 From Rifa’ ah al-Tahtawi to Edward Said: Lessons in Culture and Dignity 24

Introduction 24

Rifa’ ah al-Tahtawi and France 26

A Hundred Years Later: Edward Said 34

Concluding Comments 45

3 Ethnography as Theory: On the Roots of Controversy in Anthropology 51

Introduction 51

Unstated Consensus 54

Defining Ethnographic Worth: 1896–2000 55

Ethnographic Audiences 64

An Outsider Looking In on Anthropology’s Ethnography 69

Concluding Comments 74

4 Orientalism, Occidentalism, and the Control of Women 80

Cultural Hierarchy and Processes of Control 83

The Specifi city of Eastern and Western Grids 85

Positional Superiority, Thought Systems, and Other Cultures 87

Ways of Seeing and Comparing – East and West 88

The Controlling Role of Ideas 96

The Use of Revolution in Gender Control 98

Multiple Systems of Female Subordination 102

Colonialism, Development, Religion, and Gender Control 107

Conclusion: The Need to Separate Identities 110

5 Corporate Fundamentalism: Constructing Childhood in the United States and Elsewhere 120

Introduction 120

Manufacturing Culture Bit by Bit 122

Fundamentalisms: Corporate and Religious 126

Marketing and Children: The United States 131

Drugs, Commercialism, and the Biomedical Paradigm: An American Example 137

When Corporate Profits and Education Meet: The Educational Testing Industry 140

Fundamentalisms: Economic, Religious, Political 141

Back to Corporate Fundamentalism: Future Directions 144

6 Culture and the Seeds of Nonviolence in the Middle East 151

Introduction 151

Disharmonic Westernization and Pilgrimage 154

Between the Stereotype and Reality 157

Little Worlds in the International Grip 161

Culture and Nonviolence: Who Stands to Gain From Peace? 165

Dignity Becomes Reality 168

7 Normative Blindness and Unresolved Human Rights Issues: The Hypocrisy of Our Age 175

Introduction 175

Early Constraints 176

Unresolved Issues 178

A Nonstate Human Rights Effort 183

Health and Human Rights 186

Human Rights and Commercialism 191

Concluding Remarks 193

8 Breaking the Silence: Politics and Professional Autonomy 197

Introduction 197

Silence and Dominant Hegemonies 198

Desensitization 204

Mistakes Repeated in the Iraq Invasion 206

9 Lessons 212

Lessons Learned 212

Strategies of Subordination – In Reverse 216

Macro-histories 221

Appendix 226

Index 230

“This kind of work needs more deliberation in the academic world and it is a delight for practitioners who are interested in radicalising the discipline and practice of anthropology.  Since the book eschews technical language of the specialist, it is equally accessible to the nonspecialist reader.”  (Journal of Intercultural Studies, 1 January 2015)

“The book is written in an engaging and highly accessible manner. Although it would have benefited from a deeper differentiated discussion of ‘cultural dignity’ and what it means in this world that Nader paints, Culture and dignity is a thought-provoking exercise in the kind of connections we need to make for an anthropology committed to a more honest and robust knowledge of the Middle East and the world.”  (Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 1 January 2014)

“Drawing from an eclectic sample of literature dealing with the global connections between the Middle East and the West, the author achieves a much needed – and very timely – intellectual ‘check-up’ and warns us against cultural framings that serve to side-line serious explorations of the roots and nature of human suffering. It is crucial for all those of us who are genuinely concerned with peace to liberate our imaginations from the myths and stereotypes that work to divide us.”  (Studies in Ethnicity And Nationalism, 15 October  2013)

“The collection reflects the many lasting contributions Nader has made to understanding and improving the human condition. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries.”  (Choice, 1 July 2013)