Synopses & Reviews
Middle Easterners today are caught between memories of the past and frustrated hopes for the future. They struggle to find solutions to crises of economic stagnation, political gridlock, and cultural identity. In recent decades Islam has become central to this struggle, and almost every issue involves fierce, sometimes violent debates over the role of religion in public life. R. Stephen Humphreys's new book presents a much-needed and thoughtful analysis of Islam's place in today's Middle East. In clear, accessible language, he integrates the medieval and modern history of the region to show how the sacred and secular are tightly interwoven in its political and intellectual life.
Humphreys discusses the conflicts over power and resources that engage Middle Eastern politicians and looks at the major ideologies that have shaped these conflicts. He focuses on the impact of Islam on public life and examines Muslim ways of thinking about the "secular" versus the "religious." What values does Islam put into play? What challenges does it pose to "ordinary" politics? What resources does it bring to the struggle for social justice?
Humphreys recognizes the Western tendency to dismiss Middle Eastern politics as an incoherent tale of violence and fanaticism, and his book is especially valuable for its analysis of the deeper issues behind the headlines. These issues include the region's apparent inability to evolve democratic institutions, conflicts rooted in the peace settlements after World War I, and the unresolved debates over which cultural and moral values should drive Middle Eastern policy.
Between Memory and Desire reminds us that Middle Easterners remember the past in specific ways: the shame of the colonial era; the disappointments since independence; and the glory of the Middle Ages, when Muslim achievements were respected throughout the world. Even if these memories are only partially true, in defining the past, they also define what the future ought to be.
Middle Easterners today struggle to find solutions to crises of economic stagnation, political gridlock, and cultural identity. In recent decades Islam has become central to this struggle, and almost every issue involves fierce, sometimes violent debates over the role of religion in public life. In this post-9/11 updated edition R. Stephen Humphreys presents a thoughtful analysis of Islam's place in today's Middle East and integrates the medieval and modern history of the region to show how the sacred and secular are tightly interwoven in its political and intellectual life.
"'People know a lot of things that aren't so,' warns Stephen Humphreys, and then he tells us all we should really know about the Middle Eastand#151;a vast, complex, and frequently misunderstood universe. It is a rare achievement that combines erudition, compelling writing, and personal experience."and#151;Meron Benvenisti, author of City of Stone
"An outstanding piece of work on the relationship between secular and religious politics in the Middle East. It brings together medieval, modern, and contemporary Middle East history beautifully in a book of exceptional clarity and depth. Humphreys is nonjudgmental yet candid, focused yet comprehensive. His integration of early Islamic and contemporary history is novel, bold, and successful."and#151;Leila Fawaz, author of An Occasion for War
About the Author
R. Stephen Humphreys is Professor of History and Islamic Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of Islamic History: A Framework for Inquiry (second edition, 1991) among other works.
Table of Contents
Preface to the 2005 Edition
Preface to the First Edition
1. Hard Realities: Population Growth and Economic Stagnation
2. From Imperialism to the New World Order: The Middle East in Search of a Future
3. The Strange Career of Pan-Arabism
4. The Shaping of Foreign Policy: The Myth of the Middle East Madman
5. Military Dictatorship and Political Tradition in the Middle East
6. Profane and Sacred Politics: The Ends of Power in the Middle East
7. Islam as a Political System
8. Jihad and the Politics of Salvation
9. Women in Public Life: Islamic Perspectives, Middle Eastern Realities
10. Islam and Human Rights
Toward a Conclusion--Between Memory and Desire
A Bibliographic Note