Peoples and Cultures of the Middle East

Peoples and Cultures of the Middle East
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  • ISBN-13: 9780136564898
  • ISBN: 0136564895
  • Edition: 2
  • Publication Date: 2000
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall


Bates Staff, Bates, Daniel G., Rassam, Amal


Preface This is the second edition of a book that has gone through more than twenty printings since its original publication in 1983. The unexpected vitality of the original edition was as pleasant as it was unexpected. In the normal course of events, reports about regions and people have a relatively short shelf life. The fact that the first edition has continued to be read indicates, to us at least, that there is a sense in which social scientific findings have a cumulative quality that goes beyond the fads of the moment. It would also seem that there is a need for scholarly reporting that is broadly accessible and relatively free from an overburden of scholarly jargon and theoretical minutiae. The first edition had this as an explicit goal, and to some extent at least, it seems that it was successful. We hope that this edition is equally useful. This anthropological essay builds on nearly three decades of teaching and research by both authors in various countries of the Middle East and in neighboring regions in Africa, the Balkans, and Central Asia. As friends and colleagues of long standing, we have maintained an ongoing dialogue about the craft of anthropology and what it offers the student of Middle Eastern society. Our different but complementary points of departure and field experiences have helped, we feel, to make our discussions particularly fruitful. This book has no senior author. Indeed, it would not be possible to attribute any passage or section to any one of us; the venture was truly collaborative in all respects. In the first edition the actual, sometimes tedious, process of writing and revising was done in joint sessions; in this edition we had relatively brief but intensive sessions of joint work, but the actual crafting of chapters was necessarily done while working on separate continents, with Bates often in Turkey and Rassam in New York. As the title suggests, we see this book as an exercise in social anthropology. To that extent, our objectives are to provide a synthesis of what we feel our discipline has been able to contribute to an understanding of this important area of the world. We have avoided theoretical polemics and specialized jargon in the hopes of avoiding a common social science tendency to mystify and thereby to explain less than is already known by common sense. Our point of departure--in fact, the assumption underlying the analysis we provide--is that explanations of cultural institutions and social processes must be relatable to the behavior of individuals, their needs, values, and motivations. Individual decisions and actions, indeed, behavior of all sorts, take place in the context of particular social or cultural settings. These social and cultural settings are themselves shaped by the momentum of a specific history. Not only do the material constraints of the moment affect the strategies of individuals today, but the particular ways in which material problems or opportunities were handled in the past also influence current choices. Systems of values, norms, and religious beliefs are also an integral part of social process. Not only does an ideational system give meaning to individuals' actions, but the system itself is a source of constraints facing the individual and society, as well as an arena in which people compete. Individuals and groups use ideologies of all sorts as they strive for power--to control resources, gain prestige, and influence outcomes. Although we have not paid great attention to national-level politics and economics, we have consistently kept this larger and important context in view as we developed our analysis. It would not be too much to say that a full understanding of the activities of people in the most remote village today requires an awareness of how that community fits into a national, indeed, a world economic and political system. Many people are to be thanked for the assistance thBates Staff is the author of 'Peoples and Cultures of the Middle East', published 2000 under ISBN 9780136564898 and ISBN 0136564895.

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