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Being Modern in the Middle East: Revolution, Nationalism, Colonialism, and the Arab Middle Class Paperback – 1 Jun 2012

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"Keith David Watenpaugh has broken ground with this study of the middle class in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Aleppo. . . . Being Modern in the Middle East is an insightful and thorough narration of Aleppo's middle class that paves the way to further understand and question the ever shifting dynamics and implications of modernity in the Middle East and beyond."--Sherene Seikaly, Arab Studies Journal

"It is refreshing to read nowadays a book that does not simply repudiate modernity, but rather explores the anticipations and reactions of the studied agents themselves towards modernity . . . Being Modern in the Middle East is a superb work of cultural, political, and social history instructed political-sociological questions pertaining to modernity, civil society, and the middle class in the context of the Middle Eastern region especially its East-Mediterranean cities in the Ottoman, colonial and post-colonial era. The book, which alludes to an ample number of theoretical issues and whose forte is its scrutiny of history, will be of interest both to those concerned with the 'middle class' as a social phenomenon and with the Middle East as a modernizing region."--Uri Ram, Middle East Journal

"Watenpaugh's style is clear and effective. The book is a considerable achievement that will benefit both Middle East specialists and others who wrestle with themes of nation, empire, minorities, and modernity."--Donald Malcolm Reid, International History Review

"This is an original study that should be of great interest both to historians of the Middle East and to scholars working on the evolution of 'modern' lifestyles and modes of expression globally."--James Jankowski, Historian

"Watenpaugh has utilized the available sources well for his study, including French, Ottoman and British archives. He approaches his history rather in the manner of the French Annales school in that he also makes good use of contemporary newspaper articles, speeches, autobiographies and advertisements to construct a picture of contemporary society."--Derek Hopwood, Journal of Islamic Studies

"In sum, Being Modern in the Middle East is an important, interesting, and instructive contribution to the history of ideas, while also being social and cultural history at its best. It is the laudable result of years of research. Overall, it reflects the author's empathy with his subject, a quality that definitely contributes to the depth of his insights and conclusions."--EyalZisser, H-Net Reviews

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"This is an original piece of scholarship that addresses interesting questions about an understudied and important aspect of Middle Eastern and Eastern Mediterranean history. The product of a lively mind fed by broad reading, the book treats the reader to moments of wonderful insight based on new research."--Elizabeth F. Thompson, University of Virginia

"A remarkable book. It represents a major departure in the current historiography of the Middle East and is a significant contribution to the field."--Peter Sluglett, University of Utah

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This Product is Unsafe for Reactionary Academics 2 Mar 2007
By EP Thompson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
In a remarkable piece of scholarship, Watenpaugh situates the concept of "modernity" at the core of the middle class experience in Aleppo from the Young Turk Revolution of 1908 through the end of the mandate period in 1946. "Modernity" - a term which is often over-used and inadequately historicized by many scholars - here avoids anachronism, and indeed, one of the major historiographical contributions of Watenpaugh's text is the grounded and intricate examination of precisely what it was to "be modern" in a period marked by numerous challenges to the formation of various modes of identity. As Watenpaugh's nuanced and sophisticated analysis reveals, "being modern" was not simply a discursive act of saying so - rather, in this case, modernity was a conscious and contentious process of invention by a disparate middle class attempting to situtate itself in the midst of an array of social and politcal changes. It is refreshing to read scholarship that does not shy away from the making of the middle class; and Watenpaugh's careful treatment of such an analytical category provides a useful investagative framework for scholars whose work falls outside the Middle East. Finally, by situating an "experience of modernity" as an internal facet of middle class identity in Aleppo - rather than as an externally imposed product of the "West" or an unconscious mimicry of Western practices - it once again becomes clear that circuits of transnational dialogue need critical engagment before we can posit the a priori existence of all of the "isms" found in Watenpaugh's title.
Modernity, the Middle Class and the Middle East 21 Aug 2012
By David Balaban - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

Keith Watenpaugh's work is a seminal contribution to the history of the region and to the larger scholarly universe .... It must be a required part of any sort of reading list on modern Middle Eastern history, and I am sure that it will form an important component of graduate courses on the history of the region. But, perhaps equally significant, Being Modern in the Middle East is a very important contribution to the rank of scholarly studies of the middle class across the world. It adds one more work to a relatively small list of books that can and should be used to illustrate how the experience of modernity and the formation the middle class are both unique to specific regions yet offer a wealth of possibilities for comparative historical scholarship.

Sanjay Joshi - Comparative Studies in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia

Keith Watenpaugh's Being Modern in the Middle East is a ground-breaking tour de force.... In the final analysis, what is novel and interesting about this book is that it theoretically engages the intellectual history of the middle class in the Middle East more fully than any previous work. Conceptually, it reconnects three periods (Ottoman revolution, nationalism and colonialism) in the history of the eastern Mediterranean that have been unconvincingly sundered apart within most studies of Middle Eastern history. In the process, Watenpaugh raises pertinent questions ...about several ideological binaries (national/colonial, patriot/collaborator, modernity/tradition) that have come to dominate the history of the Middle East. As such, it is a most valuable contribution not only to the history of the Middle East, but also to the history of modernity and the nonwestern middle classes

Akram Fouad Khater -- Social History

It is his insistence on the historically contingent and contextually specific nature of the transition to modernity that makes Watenpaugh's work such a strong contribution to both Middle Eastern social history, and to our understanding of the advent of "modernity" and the development of self-identified and self-fashioned "middle classes" more generally. By establishing local conditions and non-Western agency as determining factors in one of the defining social and cultural transformations of recent world history, Watenpaugh makes an important contribution to revising the dominant Eurocentric paradigm for understanding the formation of the modern world.

Nathan C. Godley -- Itinerario
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