The Middle East and North Africa: A Political Geography

The Middle East and North Africa: A Political Geography

The Middle East and North Africa: A Political Geography

The Middle East and North Africa: A Political Geography


Many of the political problems of the Middle East and North Africa have geographic roots, but material and ideas on spatial relationships in the region have, until now, remained scattered and piecemeal. In this original work, Drysdale and Blake examine the ways in which the geography and politics of the region are intertwined, and focus on the evolution and deficiencies of the contemporary political map. Organized around the themes of partition and integration, the discussion covers such timely issues as the Arab-Israeli conflict, Arab unity, the civil war in Lebanon, regional petroleum development, strategic straits, and the Iran-Iraq war. Throughout, this unique book is richly illustrated with specially drawn maps and diagrams.


This book is intended to serve two objectives simultaneously: first, to enrich understanding of political phenomena within the Middle East and North Africa by offering a spatial perspective; and second, to help to fill a noticeable gap in the political geographic literature on the region.

Political geography texts are essentially of three types. First, there are general introductions to the subdiscipline; these are written principally for students and are typically organized around its dominant concepts, theories, or subject areas. Most of their examples are drawn from North America and Europe. Second, there are more advanced, specialized, topically based works written for professional political geographers and advanced students. These might deal with such subjects as national integration problems, elections, the oceans, boundaries, and locational conflict. Third, there are regional political geographies, like this text, written mainly for students. Relatively few books fall into this category, and those that do vary greatly in their approach. Some take a country-by-country approach, whereas others (like this book) arrange their material topically.

Although there are no books that deal exclusively with the political geography of the Middle East and North Africa, there are, of course, several that cover the general geography of the region. Unfortunately, Fisher's classic text, The Middle East:
A Physical, Social and Regional Geography
, virtually ignores political geography. Beaumont, Blake, and Wagstaff have only one chapter on the political map in The Middle East:
A Geographical Study
. Possibly no other major world region has attracted so little attention from political geographers. This lacuna seems all the more surprising in view of the region's global importance and the numerous instances in which political conflicts within it have geographic origins or dimensions.

One is compelled to employ geographic terms and concepts to describe and explain many current political relationships or problems within the Middle East and North Africa. Any account of the Arab-Israeli conflict or the Iran-Iraq War would be incomplete without an accompanying map or sensitivity to the spatial perceptions of the parties involved. Similarly, it is well nigh impossible to explain the global political significance of the Turkish, Hormuz, Bab al-Mandab, and Tiran straits, or the Suez Canal without reference to their geographic context. Countries are profoundly conscious of their place in the world. The maps that usually accompany television or newspaper reports about political events in the Middle East and North Africa are not simply for decoration or background. Their inclusion suggests that geographic context is itself relevant. Maps can have an explanatory function. A geographic . . .

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