IAI

Lorenzo Kamel, The Middle East from Empire to Sealed Identities

The Middle East from Empire to Sealed Identities, Lorenzo Kamel, Edinburgh University Press, 2019, pag. 288.

Un ricco e per molti versi inedito retroterra storico ai processi di omogeneizzazione etnico-religiosa che stanno interessando il Medio Oriente e il Nord Africa. Questo il tema del libro The Middle East from Empire to Sealed Identities di Lorenzo Kamel, professore associato all’Università degli Studi di Torino e Senior Fellow dell’Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI).

L’autore, attraverso fonti primarie rintracciate in 19 archivi sparse tra il Medio Oriente, il Nord Africa, l’Europa e gli Stati Unitifa luce sul tramonto di una storia ‘interna’, caratterizzata da realtà locali e ‘semplificata’, per molti versi immaginata e/o imposta da attori e osservatori esterni alla regione.

Kamel, analizza le complesse dinamiche attraverso cui le personalità presenti nel territorio sono state “sigillate” e riorganizzate in versioni uniformi che persistono fino ai giorni nostri. Fa poi luce sugli sforzi che i popoli stanno esercitando per tornare nella “loro” storia, riscoprendo le permeabilità e le specificità che per millenni hanno scandito il vissuto locale.

Il risultato è un libro di spessore accademico che riporta gli abitanti della regione e la loro Storia al centro del palcoscenico, a scapito di un “riduzionismo geopolitico” che pervade oggi larga parte della letteratura legata a questi temi.

Di seguito una raccolta di pareri espressi sul libro da alcuni studiosi internazionali di Medio Oriente e Nord Africa:

‘Based on exhaustive work in numerous archives and in several languages, Lorenzo Kamel has produced what I think is one of the most definitive works on the transition from empire to nation-state. It is impressively ambitious and does what many major historians have been promising to do: to show how hard, Western conceptions of identity shaped and formed the thinking and decisions of statesmen and other political elites in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It also deals with the penetration of hard national categories among the various peoples of the empire. It is an authoritative book and will be very widely consulted.’  Nicholas Doumanis, author of ‘Before the Nation’ and Professor, School of Humanities and Languages, The University of New South Wales – Sydney.

‘This book will make an important mark on the field. ‘From Empire to Sealed Identities’ shows the ways in which ethnic and other divisions were historically constructed in the Middle East under the influence of imperial powers. The work combines meticulous archival research in multiple languages with careful analysis of broader trends to map the transition from empire to homogenized nation-states. This ability to document with rich detail and at the same time be able to present the larger picture with great clarity is rare. The author pulls off the feat with great erudition.’ Beth BaronDistinguished Professor of History, The Graduate Center and City College, CUNY Past President, Middle East Studies Association (MESA) Director, Middle East and Middle Eastern American Center.

‘In this engaging revisionary study, Lorenzo Kamel shows how modern Western-ist intellectual prejudices have distorted our understanding of identity and conflict in the modern Middle East. Based on original archival research and an exhaustive survey of secondary literature, the author reveals a world that can only be characterized as “medieval” if one misunderstands the Middle Ages. Focussing on the long nineteenth century, the book provides a chronological continuation of much of the most interesting work being done in pre-modern Mediterranean Studies.’ Brian A. CatlosAuthor of ‘Muslims of Latin Christendom’ and Professor, Faculty of Religious Studies, University of Colorado Boulder.

‘Lorenzo Kamel is a dedicated and meticulous scholar, extremely experienced and internationally recognized for his research methodology. His extensive archival work, which forms the basis of many of his most important publications, is impressive by any academic standard. His archival research, informed by exemplary linguistic skills, has, without question, created new understandings of the complex dynamics shaping our inquiry into modern European empires, and the history of the Middle East in the 19th and 20th centuries. ‘The Middle East from Empire to Sealed Identities’ will continue this outstanding trend.’  Sara RoySenior Research Scholar, Harvard University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES).

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