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

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

4 WHY ARE THERE NO MIDDLE EASTERNERS
IN THE MAGHRIB?

Ramzi Rouighi

WHAT is THE MIDDLE EAST, who is a Middle Easterner, and what does it mean to think of a Middle East and Middle Easterners? This volume offers a number of ways to answer these questions. In this chapter, I propose to look at these categories as products whose social life involves the activities of particular groups that specialize in their production and dissemination. This perspective is attractive because it does not require that those involved fully master or understand the process in which they play an active role. Another aspect of this perspective is that it assumes that without the active production, maintenance, and reproduction of these categories, they would lose the sense that they refer to something in actuality and join the ranks of ideas that have become the hollow reminders of their former social existence. In other words, much as there are particular social sites that confer attributes on the tooth fairy, extraterrestrials, and race, there are particular social sites that specialize in conferring upon the Middle East and Middle Easterners an objective character.

In the Maghrib, it is possible to find the categories and terms “Middle East” and “Middle Easterner.”1 However, Maghribis tend not to use the category “Middle East” very often and use the term “Middle Easterner” even less frequently. When they do employ these categories, however, they do not believe that they refer to themselves. Instead, they believe that the Middle East is to the east and that, although they have ties to Middle Easterners, they consider themselves distinct and separate from them. In other words, as far as Maghribis are concerned, there are no Middle Easterners in the Maghrib. This chapter seeks to explain this peculiar situation by examining the conditions of the

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