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Culture and Dignity - Dialogues between the Middle East and the West

How do Western and Eastern patriarchies interact?

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Monday, December 10, 2012 8:08 am EST
"There is too much hubris in this world; we need more eye-to-eye exchange. Sometimes it is useful to travel back in time, to look in the mirror and see ourselves."

An influential figure in cultural anthropology, Laura Nader describes herself as culturally in-between. Growing up in the USA with her Levantine parents, her learning opened her eyes to the history, literature and politics of both East and West and, in turn, taught her the importance of mutual respect in everyday life, something that she draws upon in her new thought-provoking and highly-readable book. Combining more than half a century's worth of teaching and field work in the Middle East, examples from history and analysis of ongoing events, Nader explores the roots of the complex connections between the two regions and, in doing so, reveals how, if we are ever to reach a position of mutual respect, we must address our preconceptions and be open to learning about the culture of the Other.

By taking an historical and ethnographic look at the intermingling of Middle Eastern peoples and the West and by comparing a range of topics in both cultures including the position of women, religious fundamentalism, the lives of children, drugs, and the notions of violence and order, Nader seeks to remove the filters through which the peoples of the East and West see each other, intensified in recent years by the events of 9/11, the invasion of Iraq and multiple cultural imperialisms. By looking back through our mutual history, by letting go of the idea that one culture is superior to another and by focusing on our connections rather than our differences - what we are like, what you are like, what we have in common, our humanity, survival, children, fears, solutions to everyday problems - can we start to make links that will sustain us for the future and, in turn, bring about a more peaceful planet.

As Nader says, "There is too much hubris in this world; we need more eye-to-eye exchange. Sometimes it is useful to travel back in time, to look in the mirror and see ourselves." This highly-readable and enlightening book helps us do just that.

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