Recent read…

I recently finished reading a solid book by NYU’s Zachary Lockman titled Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History and Politics of Orientalism and I wanted to share a couple excerpts with you:

“… the ancient Greeks did of course not see themselves as Europeans or Westerners, much less as the originators of anything resembling ‘Western’ or ‘European’ civilization. Rather, they regarded themselves as a distinctive and culturally superior people surrounded by less advanced ‘barbarians,’ by which the Greeks meant all those who spoke not Greek but some other language, disparaged as gibberish. Moreover, though many European scholars would later depict Greek culture in the ‘classical’ period of antiquity as wholly new and unique, as an achievement of incomparable genius which the ancient Greeks created virtually out of nothing, we know that in fact the Greeks were very much influenced by, and borrowed from, the cultures of their older, richer and more powerful neighbors to the south and east. These included might Egypt, the various empires which arose in the fertile and densely populated lands between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers (Mesopotamia from the Greek for “between the rivers”), and the Phoenicians, who originated along what is today the coast of Lebanon and who, like the Greeks, ranged far and wide across the Mediterranean Sea as traders and settlers.” (Lockman, 10)
“In keeping with the classic colonial strategy of divide and rule, some French officials sought to make the inhabitants of the Kabyle region into allies of French colonialism in Algeria and therefore implemented policies which favored the Kabyles in employment, education, taxation and representation. Moreover, the French tried to insist that the Kabyles be judged in accordance with their customary law instead of Islamic law (even though they were all Muslims) while fostering Berber and suppressing Arabic in Kabyle schools. These policies, based on a highly tendentious and obviously racialized classification of Algerian’s population, helped transform what had long been fluid and contingent forms of identity into fixed, officially sanctioned and officially enforced categories. French officials in Morocco implemented similar policies after the establishment of French rule there in 1912, hoping to separate that country’s large Berber-speaking minority from its Arabic-speaking majority and thereby weaken Moroccan opposition to colonial domination.” (Lockman, 90)

[European Colonialism and its policy of divide and conquer has led to extreme sectarianism and sometimes even genocide, i.e. The Belgian policy of divide and conquer in Rwanda between the Tutsis and Hutus ultimately led to the Rwandan Genocide in ’94)

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