Cities in the Middle East: beyond "Middle Easternism"

Authored by: Haim Yacobi , Mansour Nasasra

Routledge Handbook on Middle East Cities

Print publication date:  June  2019
Online publication date:  June  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138650749
eBook ISBN: 9781315625164
Adobe ISBN:


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What is the meaning of a collection of chapters for a book dealing with cities in the Middle East? We asked ourselves this question a few years ago, when we were invited to edit the Routledge Handbook for Cities in the Middle East. Can one characterise cities in the Middle East as a distinct urban category without falling into an essentialist trap? Is there any justification for generalising about the urban processes of various cities located in a region despite their diverse histories, politics, and cultures? And finally, what is our role as researchers in deconstructing the modern geopolitical and urban map of the Middle East that has resulted from the postwar European imperialism which actually created the concept? As already noted by Davison in his canonic article “Where Is the Middle East?”,

the fact remains that no one knows where the Middle East is, although many claim to know. Scholars and governments have produced reasoned definitions that are in hopeless disagreement. There is no accepted formula, and serious efforts to define the area vary by as much as three to four thousand miles east and west. There is not even an accepted core for the Middle East.

(1960: 665) “Where is the Middle East?” is indeed a question that is echoed in the recent call by Jazeel (2016) for the return of researchers’ involvement in area studies, particularly in the Global South, and in the study of the circulation of knowledge production in the various disciplines. Tariq Jazeel argues not only that the circulation of knowledge production in the various disciplines is geographical but also that one should consider how knowledge production (and in our case knowledge of the urban) is transplanted into physical settings from where it rearticulates itself – a debate which is central to this collection.

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