The Middle East - Unity and Diversity
Papers from the Second Nordic Conference on Middle Eastern Studies, Copenhagen
22-25. October 1992.
Heikki Palva and Knut S. Vikør
About this volume
This is the second volume of papers from the Nordic conferences on
Middle Eastern studies. The first volume, The Middle East Viewed from the
North, collected a selection of the papers from the inaugural conference of
the Nordic Society for Middle Eastern Studies, at Uppsala in 1989. The present
volume includes some of the contributions to the Second Nordic conference, held
in Copenhagen 22-25 October 1992.
Our intention is thus to present a cross-section of some of the research on the
Middle East being carried out in the human and social sciences in the Nordic
countries today. Like all such volumes of papers, it is a "snapshot"; some
presenting finished projects, others outlining research still under way. It
was, however, our intention that whether finished or preliminary, the papers
should present the reader with new insight in the topics at hand. Thus, in
spite of its heterogeneous approach, we hope that the volume will present some
elements of a common approach across the boundaries of discipline and
The general theme of the conference, "diversity and unity", was a focus on two
contradictory tendencies of the geo-cultural entity that we very broadly call
"the Middle East". On the one hand, there is an underlying unity of the area,
which is however very hard to define precisely. Neither Arabic nor Islamic,
there is something that is specifically "Middle Eastern", and several papers in
this volume struggle with an understanding of what this "Middle Eastern"
identity under different names consists of.
This indefinable union of destiny is on the other hand coupled with a rich
cultural and geographic variation, sometimes hidden by the media and other
casual observers' stereotypes. The Middle East, as well as the wider "Islamic
world", is a conglomerate of different cultures, religions and societies,
indeed its identity can only be understood through its variety. Our intention
was thus also to bring to light some of the many strands of Middle Eastern
cultural, social and religious life that lie beneath the apparent unity of the
Thus, keeping in mind the warning from our keynote contributor that uncritical
use of such concepts as "variation" and "unity" may make us forget that all
these societies and culturesand the people who inhabit themchange
continuously and that we must change with them, we hope that some of the
confusing richness of the Middle Eastern reality in past and present has found
its way into this volume.
To impose a little more cohesion into it, we have chosen some of the thematic
workshops from the conference and presented their papers together. Some of them
are concerned with the interaction of religious groups with their surrounding
societies, thus the situation of the Christian minorities in the Middle East
past and present; the internal and external role of Sufi orders and their
masters, and facets of political Islamism today.
Other workshops discussed various aspects of nomadic and urban groupings, in
particular relating to questions of identity and categorization. A third
section dealt with Arabic literary themes, and brought in their own concepts of
unity and variation. At the end we have, as in the first volume, included
summaries of some of the papers that we could not present in full in this
(From the Introduction)
Read the Contents page this volume
This book (first published 1993 by NIAS, Denmark) is distributed outside Scandinavia by
C. Hurst & Co (Publishers) Ltd.,
38 King Street, London WC2E 8JT,
Phone +44-171-240 2666; fax +44-171-240-2667,
Publication date: Already published (1993)
248 pp.; £ 18. ISBN 185065-313-5.
To order directly from the publisher, fax this form to fax number +47-5558 9891
Please send me one copy of The Middle East - Unity and Diversity.
Send to: (Name and address):
Please charge the price (£ 18 + postage) to my VISA card, number
Direct orders can currently only be done through VISA cards. Surface mail added; indicate if airmail desired.
Click here for a general order form for Centre publications.