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The ‘Middle East’: From Past and Present Attributions to a Future Regional Identity?


The south-western part of the Asian continent, an area spanning from the Levant to the Hindu Kush and from the Caucasus to the Arabian Peninsula, is widely – in political, public and even academic discourses alike – referred to as the ‘Near and/or Middle East’. Such thetic denomination of that geographical space has been subjected to exogenous attributions based upon cultural, political and strategic considerations by colonial and imperial powers. Due to the interest-driven and hence arbitrary nature, its boundaries have constantly been altered in the colonial/imperial mind map. However superficial those outside markers are, they tend to shape the reality of that region – and thus to create a political geography. Through imperial incursions and on-going military presence the prescribed politico–strategic framework has imposed itself onto the region.

Beyond those representations, shared cultural values and historical experiences might provide a basis for an endogenously designed future, potentially able to overcome the partitions the region suffers from on multiple levels. Thus, besides tracing the changing ‘political geographies’, the paper proposes a realistic utopia. It aims to de-colonize the ‘Middle East’ through a critical history of the region and embraces a regionalization process. Thus it pro-actively engages with the challenges posed by the imperially designed past and present.

Read the whole document here (pdf).



Ali Fathollah-Nejad (2010) “The ‘Middle East’: From Past and Present Attributions to a Future Regional Identity?“, Polyvocia: SOAS Journal of Graduate Research, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, Vol. 2 (Spring), pp. 3–20.