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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.)

3.6 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0944029497
ISBN-10: 0944029493
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Editorial Reviews


"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

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Product Details

  • Series: Policy Paper (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: 10 x 7 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,377,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Daniel Mandel on October 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
Martin Kramer's monograph had its genesis before September 11, but its opportune arrival directly raises the question of how 2,600 specialist academics from 125 American universities and colleges had practically nothing to say - except after September 11 - about Bin Laden?
Kramer's monograph answers this question by placing it in the context of the ideological transformation of Middle Eastern studies since the Second World War.
As Kramer shows, the field was originally an antiquarian and linguistic guild that after the Second World War became highly politicized, dominated by sociologists and political scientists, and by 1966, embodied in the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA).
Kramer demonstrates that Middle Eastern studies has been characterized by political advocacy of Arab nationalism that specialists view as a beneficent force in a Middle East which they hold to be a region of burgeoning modernization.
Kramer's does not encompass a detailed aetiology of these ideas (which can be traced in large part to the Englishmen Arnold Toynbee and Sir Hamilton Gibb) but explains well the effects of these notions.
Kramer indicates how the discipline suffered a crisis of confidence in the late 1970s, which spawned the "triumph" of Edward Said's seminal work, Orientalism (1978). Said's work, as Kramer shows, was a pungent critique of Western scholarship, producing a new discipline called post-colonialism, which regarded all previous Western scholarship as a tool of Western dominance which deprived Middle Eastern societies of their own narrative, fostered racist assumptions and stimulated discriminatory practices. This new orthodoxy now accused "Zionists" like Bernard Lewis, and even Arab nationalist champion Gibb himself, of committing this alleged heresy.
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The topic, at first glance, is very narrow. This is not a book about how to study the Middle East, nor about American academia, but about the intersection of these: how the Arab Middle East in fact is and has been studied in American universities.
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.
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By A Customer on June 27, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An important and extensively documented expose of the inadequate scholarship and extreme political bias of Edward Said, John Esposito, et al. Notice that most of the reviews posted here are not asessments of the book itself, but mere expressions of the political opinions of the reviewers. If you have questions about the debate over Israel and the Arabs, about why they hate us, about Islam, or about Edward Said and Orientalism, read this book. It will explain to you who is writing what and with what sort of goal in mind. Then you can decide for yourself.
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This is the book that many Middle East "experts" don't want you to read precisely because its arguments are so completely accurate and devastatingly true. Kramer has been vilified because his arguments cannot be challenged. This well-documented and finely written study is the best history of Middle East studies ever written. It explains why America has been psychologically unprepared and misinformed in approaching every major crisis in that region down to the present one.
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Martin Kramer provides abundant evidence that the politically correct Leftists dominate the academic field of Middle Eastern Studies in the United States. These individuals are also intellectually incompetent and possess an intense hostility toward the values of Western Civilization. The author quotes esteemed scholar Bernard Lewis as deploring the painful fact that "Professional advancement in Middle East studies can be achieved with knowledge and skill well below what is normally required in other more developed fields or more frequented disciplines, where standards are established and maintained by a large number of competent professionals over long periods." The situation has worsened considerably since the 1978 publication of Edward Said's "Orientalism" which essentially perceives most Middle Eastern scholarship as bigoted imperialistic attacks upon the Muslim world. All cultures are basically equal and it is outrageous, according to Said, to claim that the West has surpassed the Islamic nations in all of the sciences, literature, and the arts. However, it is impossible to hold Said's position without ignoring the solidly established truth concerning the 500 year decline of the followers of Mohammed. This collapse occurred long before the so-called Western imperialists directly impacted the events and decisions of the Muslim leaders of the Middle Ages. Scapegoating the West is absurd and illogical. Martin Kramer seems to shy away from pointing out Said's tacit, if not explicit, Marxist intellectual underpinnings. Needless to add, I have no such reluctance. It is virtually impossible to understand these Leftist academics unless one addresses the Marxism pervading their writings.
Kramer warns that the radical Liberal Middle Eastern academic agenda is politically motivated.
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