Is There a Middle East? The Evolution of a Geopolitical Concept

By Michael E. Bonine; Abbas Amanat et al. | Go to book overview

PREFACE

ON DECEMBER 17, 2010, a 26-year-old street vendor of fruits and vegetables, Mohamed Bouazizi of Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, humiliated when the police confiscated his produce, doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire. He died of his burns on January 4, 2011, and thus began the Arab Spring, with protests that spread to the rest of Tunisia and then throughout the region— from Libya and Egypt to Syria and the Arabian Peninsula. Nearby Iran had its highly contested election of summer 2009, and its Green Movement has continued to stage demonstrations since that time. The populations of this region, particularly the young, with their social media, fed up with corruption, inherited leadership, economic injustices, and human rights a buses, have erupted in massive riots and protests against their own governments. With a predominantly Muslim population, this region also has been accused of fostering and harboring “Islamic terrorists,” from the earlier Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt to the terrorist network of the now-killed Osama bin Laden.

But where are we talking about? Is t his indeed a coherent geographical and cultural region? What is the significance for scholarship and government policies for treating and understanding the Middle East as a “region”? Is North Africa part of the Middle East? These subjects are the focus of this volume, which tackles the question, “Is there a Middle East?” If we consider the events of the Arab Spring, as well as the typical front-page news of the last decade, from the invasion of Iraq and the attempts to eliminate al-Qaeda and the Taliban from Afghanistan and Pakistan to the world’s dependency on oil, we begin to understand that we are indeed talking about a most significant geopolitical region. Whereas the term “Middle East” is certainly common usage

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