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<nettime> what is to be studied digest [x: recktenwald x2, geer x2]
nettime's_qualquant on Sat, 4 Aug 2007 09:49:05 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> what is to be studied digest [x: recktenwald x2, geer x2]


Re: <nettime> the fate of Middle East studies
     "Benjamin Geer" <benjamin.geer {AT} gmail.com>
     Heiko Recktenwald <uzs106 {AT} uni-bonn.de>
     "Benjamin Geer" <benjamin.geer {AT} gmail.com>
     Heiko Recktenwald <uzs106 {AT} uni-bonn.de>

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Date: Fri, 3 Aug 2007 21:50:57 +0300
From: "Benjamin Geer" <benjamin.geer {AT} gmail.com>
Subject: Re: <nettime> the fate of Middle East studies

2007/8/3, Heiko Recktenwald <uzs106 {AT} uni-bonn.de>:

> Maybe they are "buying" the masses and controlling the elites?

There's a lot of poverty in Egypt (44% of the population lives on less
than US$2 per day[1]), real wages have been declining in
manufacturing, and the informal sector accounts for about 40% of
employment[2].  The cost of housing and essential goods has increased
dramatically since the structural adjustment policies and
privatisation begun under Sadat in the 1970s.  Many people are clearly
struggling to get by.

As for intimidation, the only opposition party with any significant
popular support is illegal.  Anyone who follows the opposition press
in Egypt, or international human rights groups' reports on Egypt, will
be aware that the judicial system is a farce, that demonstrations have
often been ruthlessly crushed, that the ruling party uses massive
fraud and intimidation of voters to win elections, that torture is
rampant in police stations and in the security services, and that
anyone suspected of being a political dissident can easily be
imprisoned for years without charge, or kept in prison for years after
they've been acquitted.

At the same time, there's a small "middle class" (probably less than
1% of the population) that has a very good standard of living.[3]
Corruption is rampant[4].  The country is basically ruled by an
alliance between military/police officers and wealthy businessmen.

> What is academic research?

The kind that's done by specialists and published in peer-reviewed journals.

> There are a lot of Muslim profs in the US,
> that do that by the way anyway.

How many compared to the number of professors who study Latin America?

> But what sort of indications are you looking for?

For example, numbers of job openings per year for Middle East specialists.

> What should be done?

I think that as much as possible, we (and in particular those of us
who are students or teachers) have to use whatever leverage we have to
get universities to do a better job.  I'd like to believe that
alternative forms of knowledge production, based on networks as in
free-software production, could be made to compensate for the failings
of universities, but the question is, where would the funding come
from?  Companies like IBM are funding the development of Linux; who
will fund students who want to learn Arabic and do sociological
research in the Middle East?

Ben

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Date: Fri, 03 Aug 2007 21:09:12 +0200
From: Heiko Recktenwald <uzs106 {AT} uni-bonn.de>
Subject: Re: <nettime> the fate of Middle East studies

Hi,

Benjamin Geer wrote:

> 2007/8/3, Heiko Recktenwald <uzs106 {AT} uni-bonn.de>:
>   
>> Maybe they are "buying" the masses and controlling the elites?

IMHO "to buy" is not an appropriate term in that context, but maybe your 
background is different.

> As for intimidation, the only opposition party with any significant
> popular support is illegal.  

But isnt that "controlling the elites"? Those who organise parties?

> At the same time, there's a small "middle class" (probably less than
> 1% of the population) that has a very good standard of living.

Sociology.

>  we have to get universities to do a better job.  

IMHO society is allready doing a good job by asking proper questions.

> I'd like to believe that alternative forms of knowledge production, based on
> networks as in free-software production, could be made to compensate for the
> failings of universities, but the question is, where would the funding come
> from?  

Many ways lead to Rome.

IMHO one should start with a legalisation of the Muslim Brotherhood in 
Egypt. They are doing alternativ forms of knowledge production as well. 
Money is no problem. See how perfect Hezbollah was and Hamas is 
organising things. What do you want to change aka action? Knowledge is 
nothing.

H.

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Date: Sat, 4 Aug 2007 00:36:46 +0300
From: "Benjamin Geer" <benjamin.geer {AT} gmail.com>
Subject: Re: <nettime> the fate of Middle East studies

2007/8/3, Heiko Recktenwald <uzs106 {AT} uni-bonn.de>:

> > As for intimidation, the only opposition party with any significant popular
> > support is illegal.
>
> But isnt that "controlling the elites"? Those who organise parties?

Yes, but that's only one segment of the elites.  I don't have
statistics, but it looks to me as if the Muslim Brotherhood's cadres
are generally still from the middle and lower middle classes, while
the wealthiest Egyptians tend to support the regime.

> IMHO society is allready doing a good job by asking proper questions.

It depends on who you mean by society.  The Western media publish a
lot of uninformed nonsense on the Middle East, and it's always seemed
to me that a lot of people believe what the media tell them, or just
don't know anything at all about the region, like these Americans:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJuNgBkloFE

> IMHO one should start with a legalisation of the Muslim Brotherhood in
> Egypt....

Sure, but the question is how to create conditions in which that could
happen.  Maybe one thing that would help is if the US stopped giving
military aid to Egypt.  I doubt that will happen unless there's
substantial domestic political pressure on the US government.

> Knowledge is nothing.

Some young members of the Muslim Brotherhood recently explained to me
that the group's strategy is essentially to educate people until they
have the support of most of Egyptian society.  It struck me as
basically a Gramscian approach.  So they see knowledge as very
important.

> They are doing alternativ forms of knowledge production as well.

Yes, but is it making much impact in the West?  In France, for
example, I've had the impression that an academic like Gilles Kepel,
who has appeared a great deal in the mainstream media, whose book
_Jihad_ was a bestseller, and who is very suspicious of political
Islam, has considerable influence over what French people think about
the Middle East.  In the US, Bernard Lewis, whom the Bush
administration love, seems to have even greater influence.

> Money is no problem. See how perfect Hezbollah was and Hamas is
> organising things.

But who in the West is listening to them (or to any Arab thinkers, for
that matter)?  Even the European leftists I know reject the idea of
listening to Islamists, because they're hostile to religion in
general, and to Islam in particular.  The only exception I know of is
the Socialist Worker's Party in the UK, which sent representatives to
the Cairo Social Forum this year, where there were speakers from
Hizballah and Hamas.  But I've been in Egypt for two years, so I'm out
of touch; have things changed much?

Ben

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Date: Sat, 04 Aug 2007 01:34:57 +0200
From: Heiko Recktenwald <uzs106 {AT} uni-bonn.de>
Subject: Re: <nettime> the fate of Middle East studies

Hi,

Benjamin Geer wrote:

>> IMHO one should start with a legalisation of the Muslim Brotherhood in
>> Egypt....
>
> Sure, but the question is how to create conditions in which that could
> happen.  Maybe one thing that would help is if the US stopped giving
> military aid to Egypt.  I doubt that will happen unless there's
> substantial domestic political pressure on the US government.

Dont know.

>> They are doing alternativ forms of knowledge production as well.
>
> Yes, but is it making much impact in the West?  

Does this matter?  IMHO it is not the business of Arabs to make the West 
listen to them.

Maybe the business of Western journalists in Egypt etc to report what is 
really happening. In Gaza etc.

Best, H.

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