Middle East studies in the News
With 'Enemies' Like Hamid Dabashi, Imperialism Doesn't Need Friends
by Dan Glazebrook
At his best, Hamid Dabashi is a passionate advocate of justice, dissecting and lambasting Islamophobia in the media, castigating racist military anthropology or mocking the self-importance and egoism of European philosophers.
He writes thought-provokingly on the urgent need to overcome the false divisions between "Islamic" and "secular" — divisions perpetuated on both sides — whose only beneficiaries are the imperial strategists.
Particularly fascinating are Dabashi's discussions of the relationship between knowledge production and power. His starting point is the materialist position that historical conditions are the bedrock of ideas. The mode of knowledge production known as Orientalism, he explains, was commensurate with the European imperial project, producing knowledge in all academic fields which served the interests of the imperial powers.
Today, the most feted knowledge producers in the West continue to serve the interests of globalised capital: "The public sphere at the disposal of propagandists like Harris, Hitchens and Rushdie generates and sustains a regime of knowledge that…connects their decidedly vested interests to the ideological priorities of the time and seeks to keep the formal structure of power that privileges them intact," he contends.
Yet as the book progresses, one cannot help but wonder how the knowledge production of Dabashi himself is connected to the vested interests and ideological priorities of the time and how his work, too, might serve to keep the formal structure of power that privileges him intact.
Dabashi is featured regularly on CNN and Al Jazeera, who originally published the majority of the articles that make up this book. What is it that makes his work so attractive to the British imperial relics of the Qatari royal family or the multi-billion US entertainment conglomerate Time Warner, who own his two major publishers?
Once he moves out of the realm of critiquing Eurocentric philosophy, and into the concrete analysis of ongoing political events, the answer to this question, sadly, becomes increasingly clear.
Muammar Gadaffi — in an article published on the very eve of the Nato bombardment of Libya — is described as a "dying beast" and, no surprise, a "mad colonel." Hugo Chavez is an "obscenity," Daniel Ortega an "absurd banality" and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad an "upstart" — a timeless epithet of indignation attached by the privileged to those encroaching on their turf.
His hatred for the Iranian regime is thus transferred to all independent third world leaderships and it's always, of course, wrapped up in a supposedly decolonial rhetoric in order to differentiate his words, otherwise often indistinguishable, from the likes of a David Cameron or a John McCain.
Which can only lead to the conclusion that as far as imperialism is concerned, with enemies like this, who needs friends?Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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