Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History and Politics of Orientalism

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Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History and Politics of Orientalism

By Zachary Lockman
Cambridge University Press, 2004
330 pp. $22.99
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The first half of this book surveys how the West has "imagined" the Middle East from early encounters to the twentieth century. In the second half, Lockman narrows his focus, tracing the American image of the Middle East over the past half-century. One chapter, devoted to the scholarly debate sparked by Edward Said's Orientalism, offers the best available short analysis of the views of Said, Bernard Lewis, and other major thinkers. Other themes include modernization theory, which emerged soon after World War II as a critical determinant of American thought about the Middle East; U.S. governmental support for Middle Eastern studies; and the role of think tanks. Lockman ends with a tough but fair and persuasive critique of Martin Kramer's broadside Ivory Towers in the Sand, which charges that American academic scholarship on the contemporary Middle East gets it all wrong. Most impressive about Lockman's study of these "contending visions," past and present, is the perceptive and fair appraisal he offers of those whose vision he does not share.