Junk Democracy: Middle East Meets Middle America

in Varieties of Muslim Experience

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2008 | ISBN: 9780226726168
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226726182 | DOI:
Junk Democracy: Middle East Meets Middle America

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This chapter looks at the problematic elements of the West's encounters with Arab culture by presenting a story of a dispute on the author's block between a man from the Middle East and the other neighbors. This story demonstrates how different orientations to relationships may affect cross-cultural communication. Looking at the larger context of Arab culture, the question “what went wrong?” can be transformed into a question of how the diverse aspects of Arab culture form a coherent vision of life that centers on the ties people negotiate with one another and the implications of a vision of the self as not readily segregated into potentially discordant roles. In this context, property can be seen as less a question of one's relationship to things than to others, and with it some suggestions present themselves as to why attachment to particular territories may vary in intensity across the Arab world. Similarly, the emphasis Arabs place on ideas of “justice” also becomes more comprehensible as we understand that for them justice actually implies equivalence rather than equality.

Keywords: Middle East; West; Arab culture; cross-cultural communication; property; Arab world; territories; Arabs; justice; equality

Chapter.  5670 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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