- Series: Policy Papers (Washington Institute for Near East Policy) (Book 58)
- Paperback: 137 pages
- Publisher: Washington Institute for Near East Policy (October 1, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0944029493
- ISBN-13: 978-0944029497
- Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.2 x 9.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 15 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,067,567 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Ivory Towers on Sand: The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America (Policy Papers (Washington Institute for Near East Policy), No. 58.)
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"Unquestionably, this is one of the most important books about understanding the Middle East written during the last half-century." -- Jerusalem Post
A case study in the broader trend of the universities reduced to irrelevance by the post-modern denial of objective truth. -- Wall Street Journal, November 12, 2001
Incisive and original...the failure Kramer documents affects Americans and Middle Easterners alike, not to mention others around the world. -- New York Post, November 5, 2001
Kramer has performed a crucial service by exposing intellectual rot in a scholarly field of capital importance to national well-being. -- Weekly Standard, November 19, 2001
Written in caustic, punchy prose...fresh, essential reading...a cluster bomb, and lots of scholars are likely to be hit. -- Philadelphia Inquirer, November 25, 2001
From the Publisher
"Martin Kramer's new book will show, as nothing else will, what has become of Middle Eastern Studies at a highly ideological time. It will put on much of that field the cautionary warning label that the wider public needs and will savor...an antidote to the illusions and wishful thinking of a whole way of interpreting the Middle East." -Fouad Ajami
Top customer reviews
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Once this narrow focus is understood and accepted by the reader, there is a fascinating read here. Kramer is very knowledgeable about the inner workings of "Middle Eastern Studies," and more particularly about the Middle East Studies Association (MESA). The story he has to tell is actually more entertaining than most of the novels with academic settings, and the humor more mordant, because it is all true, alas. The second chapter about Edward Said is worth the price of the book.
Of course the Marxists and other Israel-bashers won't like this book -- it tells us too much about them.
That said, there are regretful lacunae in Kramer's book. It would seem that "area studies," of which the Middle Eastern is but one, can lend themselves to superficiality perhaps more than the traditional disciplines of history, language study, sociology, religious studies, etc. Kramer is a bit evasive on this. And Kramer is also a tad too fond of social science jargon. "Paradigm," a word introduced with the present meaning by Thomas Kuhn back in 1962, appears on practically every page of Kramer's book. Kuhn himself, in the second edition of his book, in 1970, found himself obliged to clarify his meaning.
But these are minor quibbles. I learned a great deal from this book, especially about the pretensions of (some of) America's academics. Five stars here, well earned.
Kramer's work is a necessary corrective to the direction that much modern "scholarship" has taken in this field. It's about time.
The second major set of errors related to the character of the societies themselves. The experts were talking about a transformation to a new civil order in the Middle East. Instead what has occurred is an ever- deepening backwardness in which individual rights, the rights of women, free inquiry , democratic institutions are given no place.
Kramer shows how the in-built prejudice of the Middle Eastern Studies department made their batting average in seeing the future of the area, zero.
Beyond this Kramer takes a look at the way the US government has funded programs in these departments, and given free lunches and worse to investigators who are hostile or at best indifferent to the needs of American society. The Middle Eastern studies departments have not contributed in an adequate way to the education of scholars, students of Arabic, experts who could help in the worldwide US campaign against Terror which has a good part of its base in the Arab Middle East.
Kramer sees that the throwing of federal funds at these departments have led them to go in their own often Anti- American ways.
What he would like to see is Middle Eastern studies departments which have some sense of responsibility to the US society which they belong. He would like to see more diversity, true diversity in the kinds of scholars which are hired, and opinions debated. He sees one key to this in the Federal funding which provides the research money for graduate students and post- doctoral studies. He is not asking for a curtailing of academic freedom but rather suggesting that there be on the part of Middle East studies faculty an awareness that they live in American society and have obligation to its norms and standards. He understands that given the entrenched faculties of most of these institutions great change will not come overnight. But he believes the United States government and its citizens should not be content with a situation where ninety percent or more of the faculties opposed the 1991 Bush invasion of Iraq , and oppose US goals for the area.
This is a well- argued, clearly written piece of work, an overwhelming indictment of intellectual and moral corruption in the Middle East Studies departments of America.
Congress should take note, and when the next time comes for appropriating funds for ' Middle Eastern scholars' make certain that the present situation of corruption is not allowed to persist.