In this magisterial work, Sami Zubaida draws on a distinguished career's worth of experience trying to understand the region to address the fundamental question in Middle East studies: what is the Middle East? He argues, controversially, that to see it through the prism of Islam, as it is conventionally viewed, is to completely misunderstand it. Many of what we think of as the 'Islamic' characteristics of the region are products of culture and society, not religion.To think of Islam itself as an essential, anti-modern force in the region rather than something shaped by specific historical-economic processes is, Zubaida argues, a mistake. Instead, he offers us an alternative view of the region, its historic cosmpolitanism, its religious and cultural diversity, its rapid adoption of new media cultures, which reveals a multi-faceted and complex region teeming with multiple identities. Wide-ranging, erudite and powerfully argued, Zubaida's work will be essential reading for future generations of students of this fascinating region.
Sami Zubaida is Emeritus Professor of Politics and Sociology at Birkbeck College, University of London and a specialist in the religion, culture and politics of the Middle East. He is the author of 'Law and Power in the Islamic World', 'Islam, the People and the State' and co-editor of 'A Taste of Thyme: the Culinary Cultures of the Middle East' (all I.B.Tauris).
Introduction * 1. Is There a Muslim Society? * 2. Political Modernity in the Middle East * 3. Shifting Social Boundaries and Identities in the Modern Middle East * 5. Islam and Nationalism: Continuities and Contradictions * 6. The Public and the Private in Middle Eastern History and Society