Thursday, November 19, 2009

Leo Africanus/Arab and Islam Readings - Blog 4

Due to the variety in the readings for this week, I am not sure how to address all of them. Therefore, my unabashed focus will be on Mohammed Bamyeh’s “Global Affinities Beyond the State: Lessons From the Historical Structures of Muslim Society.” However, in short summary, Leo Africanus concluded with Hasan marrying a woman named Maddalena at the request of the Pope. She gives birth to his first son, Giuseppe. Pope Leo X died, leaving “Adrian the Barbarian” to take his place, which eventually leads to the imprisonment of Hasan due to his perceived failure to cooperate with the new pope by refusing to shave his beard. Pope Adrian was then poisoned, and Cardinal Julius, a friend of Hasan’s, assumed the role of pope and released Hasan from prison. Hasan and Guicciardini attempt to act as political messengers to facilitate an alliance between Rome and Constantinople. Hasan ends up having to deal with Harun, but it is to no effect because the political wars take their course anyway. Rome was pillaged, but Hasan was allowed a safe escape with aid from one of his former pupils. After this final flight from danger, Hasan concedes that he is finally ready to settle down and live out the rest of his life quietly and safely with his family. “A Special Report on the Arab World” basically described how the Arab world has been experiencing political stagnation, but there is hope for some form of a revolution in the future. It is unlikely that it will be a violent one because the problem of unemployment for the youth is not something that will rile them up to that extent. However, sites like Facebook and Youtube are increasingly being used among Arabs. An innovative television station, al-Jazeera, also paved the way for more accurate coverage of news in the Arab world. Education is becoming more widespread, although the quality is not great. Basically, the Arab people are finally starting to speak out about their complaints, but this will most likely continue in a passive manner for the time being. As for Bamyeh’s article, it describes how imperialism and globalization do not have to be inexplicably linked. He argues that through the principles of partial control, free movement, and cultural heteroglossia (which all occurred previously in the Islamic world), a global system is possible that does not include absolute control by one power.

I thought it was extremely interesting that heteroglossia means that the “social unconscious of religion” imposes order, but not unity, on the people (11). Thus Islam binds people together, but it does not make them conform. Bamyeh describes the opposing views that can still exist within Islam: gender inequality as well as gender equality, economic policies that benefit the merchants as well as those that benefit the poor, and even praise for austerity as well as ostentation. These dichotomies fascinate me because they would be unable to exist in harmony within our capitalist society. I also thought it was interesting that although we see immigration as a problem, it is actually a positive step toward achieving a peaceful world system based on the principle of freedom of movement. Bamyeh emphasizes that despite various restrictions on goods and people, both will continue to move transnationally because “Global order, after all, does not consist only of that which is allowed” (15). I thought that statement best described how the world may move toward the three principles that Bamyeh outlined, whether the imperialistic societies like it or not.

I think a major fault with this article is that Bamyeh almost refuses to address the fact that imperialism is still winning out. Although he makes a good point – that a peaceful global society could be achieved through the historical principles of partial control, freedom of movement, and heteroglossia – imperialism is very tenacious and predominates in most of the world. I understand his conclusion that there is no “end” of history and so imperialism does not make sense in the long run, but I think he could have elaborated more on the Islamic world, let alone the rest of the world, will come to adopt this view. Part of the article is Bamyeh describing how the Islamic world has partially left these principles behind, although it has not benefited them. I would like to know how he thinks they will be convinced to readopt these ideas and follow through with them, as well as how he believes the rest of the world will change its ways. Although these principles may be more rational and beneficial, I cannot see the entire world easily making the transition.

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