Origin & Growth of Modern
Middle Eastern Studies Centre
Dr. Mozammel Haque
Because of the Arab Spring there are lots of discussions, meetings, seminars and conferences now. Every alternate month a new book on Middle East was launched. Professor Roger Owen, Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, is also at Oxford University. He spoke on Modern Middle East Studies as a distinct intellectual field at the London School of Economics recently and it is well-known to everybody about Roger’s prodigious and extraordinary interesting output and there is nobody better equipped than him to talk about the Modern Middle East Studies as a distinct intellectual field. Professor Roger Owen himself as an economic historian and continues as an economic historian and on the way writes about politics and political science and most boldly above all became a political biographer of Lord Cromer who has been known to politicians who are in politics rather than historians treat him with considerable caution but he put him on a most imaginable way. Most recently he has written and published a book “Rise and Fall of Arab Presidents for Life”.
Mandate Studies in America
This type of studies, one of Professor Owen’s friends in America, called it a Mandate Studies. They invented it in Damascus in 1963. That’s a different way of doing field. They invented the field and this field, the Mandate Studies how long it existed and the history of the bottom people’s history and everything the people believe as they could somehow bring into creation like that. Or creating alternative story of that how it came into. How it came into being into bits and pieces in time.
But Professor Owen said he would be talking of the English-speaking world. Outside people speculate, Professor Owen said, “Why this particular field Modern Middle East Studies is Anglo-American concern.” “I think what Edward Said called it fashioned Orientalism much stronger on the continent than it needs it. It is here speakers of German Orientalism.”
Professor Owen said, “It is the English-speaking world where I think, many people will disagree with me, whether they hold Orientalism was slightly less than it had been in France, Europe and Germany and that something to do remarkable efforts of my heroes of my story Hamerston who was an Orientalist himself but as a result of being in the Middle East in the Second World War and other influence, I am not sure more of, said that there should be a modern field and it should be disciplinary and all kinds of things as it turned out to establish what turned out a practice.”
Professor Owen said, “Our practice is we should all know and learn languages; we should all live in Middle East for at least two years and we should at least be social scientists or historians, I will come to that. So it was a science that the Harvard department thinks it a history, a set of stories.”
Talking about the origin and pioneers of the Middle Eastern Studies, Professor Owen concentrated first on what he knew the one kind of institution model. He said, “I am aware of SOAS, Durban and there are other institutions model. People who relate to Middle East of different kinds of fields but all had a great man of one kind or other somewhere in the history of their own. People I call the pioneer, the people who created the field in various ways, I tried to describe elaborately.”
Albert Hourani military executive in 1942
And Bernard Lewis another pioneer
“So the origin we just have a new biography upon Sir Albert Raymond Carr which everything goes back to Second World War about which we absolutely knew nothing at all because of the Official Secrecy Act. So the most people I knew to begin with warring Cairo in operation; Albert Hourani, military executive in 1942. But of the Official Secrecy Act, they never talked about it, said Professor Owen and added, “If you read Bernard Lewis, one of the pioneers too, you read his autobiography written in association with his new wife. Again he talked, he said nothing about what he was doing in the Middle East. That’s essential. It’s a pity okay that everybody went to the area studies.”
During Cold War military intelligence
After the Second World War in the context of Cold War there have been in the military intelligence and so this idea that we could do something separate from this guys had to believe.
Albert Hourani the founder of Middle East Centre in Oxford
Professor Owen then mentioned about the Middle East Centre at St. Antony College in Oxford. He said, “I think, my mentor Albert Hourani, he was the founder of Middle East Centre in Oxford in 1957, the first Director, thought somehow the idea of putting the Centre in Oxford, at least out of Foreign Office, telling them what they have to believe them being asked but nevertheless this is what it comes from. And that’s bit is difficult to talk about. Just to assume everybody had started the Anglo-Saxon world the Washington somewhere providing intelligence in the larger areas.”
He continued, “We need to have war against Germany but this is where some of the basic practices were established. The way Germany was studied in Washington can buy people to assess offices strategic services were totalled. They had sociologists, they had cultural people, they had doctors studying historiography; psychologists studying psychology; it was inter-disciplinary and they all brought their particular fields to the greater story of understanding Germany.”
Graduate Studies Centre
Professor Owen also mentioned, “the people who went out in between the wars in order to post-1945 World had two missions, one was to establish, at least Graduate Studies. They wanted something research and so on, not in the Undergraduate level which they recognised as dominated by the old missionary schools. The historians were all doing what they were doing as they did; and anxious to do anything. People in the Graduate Centre and Semitic department they always did. So we wanted to have Graduate Centre for the Study of the Middle East and they tended to start by people of notions of how to conduct inter-disciplinary studies had appeared in first or Second World War context. Some of these intelligence is about mixed word conducting about intelligence may be about gathering information but they are central part of our story.”
Liberated from Orientalism and Oriental Studies
Talking about the second thing which they felt is to liberate this study from Orientalism. Professor Owen mentioned, “The second thing is it has to be liberated from Orientalism and Oriental Studies. And as far as I understand that’s all the Middle East Centres were in the old Victorian Houses, two in Oxford and one in Cambridge University. So the idea would be that the Centre would physically be removed from the Oriental Studies or the Oriental Institute. Alliances might be made but what we did went on to a different building in a different kind of way .and that was one way of trying to read ourselves the way of studying Middle East Studies in old fashion philological based on text and knowledge of grammar and so on.”
Here again Professor Owen mentioned about Hammerston who gave consent to that. He said, “Again Hammerston gave consent to that. He said I can do the Oriental bits; Middle East Studies after 1800. Now go forth the young man. In my story, the young man turned out to be Albert Hourani and Bernard Lewis, do something different. So there is huge importance Hammerston did.” But Professor Owen enquired, “How many people heard about Hammerston?” He said, “He was at the Oriental Studies in the 1930s. He was born in Egypt; then went to Edinburgh University and then he came to teach in SOAS.”
Professor Owen talked about Hammerston who was at the Oriental Studies in the 1930s. He was born in Egypt, and then went to Edinburgh University and then he came to teach at SOAS.
Professor Owen mentioned some of the things which have been done; such as some sets of practices have been established; contacts, open doors, centre of networks done; He said create a system of training; first you have an MA in Philosophy but there is none; it has to be created. Professor Owen also mentioned about terrible things is seminar in Oxford. In Oxford seminars are always on Friday; German seminar – give models.
Professor Owen also said, “We need Middle Eastern people here speaking English studying actually talk to people on regular basis in Cairo Universities that is much more difficult. I am not quite sure what to share and that’s something how our association with the people of the Middle East. We have to share understanding with the Middle East.”
Again talking of coming of age, Professor Owen mentioned. “Coming of age has to say something of how it happened and looked at it. How it looked in 1990:” He said, “In other fields we have practices, we have training, our institutions, we have journals, we have a critical mass of people, people, institution and connection, and I think we have a common language now; and not always which is not of language of ideas but a language of material language how things are done.”
But he mentioned, “What we lack is the sub-consciousness – we are still not aware of ourselves and objects. This is perhaps the French notion but to be aware of to be constituted. It has to be constituted the objects of study .In order to be critical we have to be aware of what our field is; how can we engage with it as critiques of it?”
“We also need to know how we differ from other areas of study and we need to know not only our own field the objects and constituted and so on. What we do? How we do? And what other people are doing and SOAS should know this. We should know what is going on in African studies,” Professor Owen said and mentioned, “We are very bad in collective projects. Anglo-Saxon world; everybody wants to be original. Scientists have to be worked as teams. But we don’t work in collective projects. We need to do that. We lost touch with the Arab intellectuals; what is happening in the Middle East; because what is happening in the Middle East Universities.”
He also said, “There is not much Middle East Studies going on. What is going on is Egyptian Studies. Very few people accepts that the institution of Arabic studies do Arab Studies and we still need to find the people who are doing the same kind of Middle East Studies in the Arab world talk to that is much easy. Ottoman Studies is much more complicated.”
Questions and Answers Session
In the Questions & Answers session, Professor Owen advised young students to do three things: “Go and live there in the Middle East for three years if you can; this is our practice; make sure you know the languages well and social sciences well and most of the people who apply to Harvard to do Middle Eastern studies do all that just happened. That particular bit learning the being and the social science is already there. You just have to prepare yourself. You have to live there, learn the languages and know the social sciences.”
Another question was asked, “You have spoken about intelligence organisation. This country maintains intelligence in all countries under the guidance of British Council or in the American Universities .Everybody tries to think Arabs are incapable of doing their own affairs and it needs to be guided by people in the West. You, not being personally, have been in America; average Americans would not know where the Middle East is? I would put it to you that had there been no interference by the intelligence agency, which you referred to, and which continues; this Middle East would have taken to the level where people would aspire. Now Iraq is being destroyed and Syria would be soon destroyed; Tunisia, Egypt were back in the hands of Islamic brotherhood. Tunisia, you praised but no one mentioned about Saudis, Kuwaitis and the Gulf states.”
In answering the above queries, Professor Owen mentioned, “I am having talk to the Arab London Associations; about what the Middle East needs and clearly it needs not to be interfered with from outside. There are many reasons why Middle East and North Africa is the nearest neighbour of Europe. They are subject to various forms of colonial enterprise. There was mandate system; then there is Israeli-Palestine relations and then there is oil. So there is plenty of reasons historically, not just intelligence, materials, neighbours interest about why the Middle East above all the parts of non-European world has been the most interfered with and what we would hopeful is that they be allowed to get on their own business. That’s what they need. They need space.”