Middle East studies in the News
Massad's Bad Book
by Martin Kramer
I was on the road when the Columbia story peaked, so I haven't had my say yet. Be patient. For starters, I'll begin with Joseph Massad (pictured), the most egregious of Columbia's faculty miscreants, who released his statement to the ad hoc committee after publication of its report. It's a bizarre collage of self-serving lies, half-truths, and conspiracy theories. I'll confine myself (for now) to one example.
At one point, Massad is eager to parade as someone whose scholarship is above reproach. This brings him to his only book, Colonial Effects: The Making of National Identity in Jordan. Massad: "The only unfavorable review, out of seventeen favorable reviews, it received was in Martin Kramer's unscholarly magazine, Middle East Quarterly."
Now Massad can think what he likes about the Middle East Quarterly, which I used to edit. The reviewer was a genuine scholar, and a renowned historian of Jordan: Asher Susser. Indeed, so redoubtable a scholar is Susser that even Massad, in his book, cites Susser's authority on Jordan three times (p. 343, note 123; p. 344, note 135; and p. 348, note 180).
So for the record, here is Susser's review of Massad's Colonial Effects (which, in dissertation form, won a prize from the Middle East Studies Association). It's short (all reviews in Middle East Quarterly are), and it isn't pretty. Susser:
Massad has done a thorough job of mastering the source material, but his ideological bias runs deep and devalues the results. Massad portrays Jordanians as the malleable creatures of others, non-participants in their own national enterprise who think only the thoughts Westerners imbed in their minds. Or, in the characteristically obtuse jargon of this book: the "juridical-military dyad introduced by British colonialism was both a repressive and a productive success. Today's Jordanian national identity and Jordanian national culture are living testament to that achievement."
(This last error is especially appalling, as Massad has been allowed to teach "Palestinian and Israeli Politics and Society." Columbia's standards are that low.)
In the amen corner of Middle Eastern and postcolonial studies, they may fawn over Massad's book. But how many of the fawners have devoted their careers to the study of Jordan? Massad's own elision--concealing the fact that his book got a thumbs-down from a major scholarly authority--is typical of his method. (Columbia University Press, the book's publisher, isn't much better: its website quotes the first half-sentence of Susser's review--"Massad has done a thorough job of mastering the source material"--as an endorsement.) Ah, how they whitewash on Morningside Heights.
posted Tuesday, 19 April 200Note: 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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