The Middle East: A Cultural Psychology

The Middle East: A Cultural Psychology

The Middle East: A Cultural Psychology

The Middle East: A Cultural Psychology

Synopsis

For over a decade the Middle East has monopolized news headlines in the West. Journalists and commentators regularly speculate that the region's turmoil may stem from the psychological momentum of its cultural traditions or of a "tribal" or "fatalistic" mentality. Yet few studies of the region's cultural psychology have provided a critical synthesis of psychological research on Middle Eastern societies.

Drawing on autobiographies, literary works, ethnographic accounts, and life-history interviews,The Middle East: A Cultural Psychology, offers the first comprehensive summary of psychological writings on the region, reviewing works by psychologists, anthropologists, and sociologists that have been written in English, Arabic, and French. Rejecting stereotypical descriptions of the "Arab mind" or "Muslim mentality,' Gary Gregg adopts a life-span- development framework, examining influences on development in infancy, early childhood, late childhood, and adolescence as well as on identity formation in early and mature adulthood. He views patterns of development in the context of recent work in cultural psychology, and compares Middle Eastern patterns less with Western middle class norms than with those described for the region's neighbors: Hindu India, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Mediterranean shore of Europe. The research presented in this volume overwhelmingly suggests that the region's strife stems much less from a stubborn adherence to tradition and resistance to modernity than from widespread frustration with broken promises of modernization--with the slow and halting pace of economic progress and democratization.

A sophisticated account of the Middle East's cultural psychology,The Middle Eastprovides students, researchers, policy-makers, and all those interested in the culture and psychology of the region with invaluable insight into the lives, families, and social relationships of Middle Easterners as they struggle to reconcile the lure of Westernized life-styles with traditional values.

Excerpt

Recent years have witnessed an explosion in information technology. Scholars and scientists in all fields of study have at their fingertips more information than ever before and, in fact, more information than they can possibly manage. We are able to communicate and interact with others around the world effortlessly via the Web. Interest and research on people from different cultures and societies is at its highest in recent decades, and promises to become even more prominent in the future.

Despite the information explosion and increased ease of communication, there are still countries, regions, and cultures of the world about which we have little reliable information. Although studies of culture and psychology are prominent in the Far East (particularly Japan), North America, and Europe, they are still sorely lacking in Central and South America, Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. This gaping hole in the scientific literature is in fact largest in psychology, as psychological studies of the people of these cultural regions still lag far behind other types of scientific research.

The consequences of this lack of information are formidable. People's reactions to the events of September 11 demonstrated that ignorance about the lives of people from other cultures helps to promulgate stereotypes, misperceptions, and misunderstandings. Believing in uninformed stereotypes makes it easier to make negative attributions to groups of people when unfortunate events occur. Doing so also makes it easier to homogenize people, ignore their considerable individuality and diversity, and believe in the supremacy of one's ways of life, beliefs, and being.

It is in this light that I welcome Gary Gregg's The Middle East: A Cultural Psychology as the first book to be published in the Oxford University Press Series in Culture, Cognition, and Behavior. In this book, Gregg provides a broad overview of what underlies the psychological development throughout the lifespan of individuals living in Middle East and North African . . .

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