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How to Learn About the Middle East: 3 Easy Steps

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Melinda McClimans

on 10 September 2013

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Transcript of How to Learn About the Middle East: 3 Easy Steps

How to Learn About the Middle East: 3 Easy Steps
1. Rethink Knowledge
Every person has knowledge from individual life experience.
Every knowledge base has a history and a community.
Those two intersect, and create one's worldview, usually centered in a particular culture.
3. Inform yourself, and be curious - ask why? When it comes to the Middle East, you need to relearn what you thought you knew.
Circling back to the beginning: Knowledge = representations of the truth + ways for interpreting them. Seek information about the Middle East, but also the means for understanding it according to the original context.
2. Dig Deep. World areas outside of Europe and her former colonial strongholds, are painted with a simplifying brush.
Therefore, you must learn about diversity. If you are starting from scratch, first learn about the major factors shaping people's daily lives: what shapes the values, beliefs and practices of a particular area of the world? What are the same, and what are different from your own, and the society you live in?
You must learn the history, because it shows the reasons for why things are the way they are now. There is a tendency to see unfamiliar practices as strange because you don't have the cultural references for them. This is a phenomenon known as ethnocentrism, and it is where we all start at when we get to know culture and become aware of how it impacts knowledge.
Global citizens are able to deal with cultural differences, and dig for underlying reasons when they encounter words or actions that surprise them. Further, it is possible to understand why a culture upholds certain norms and accepts practices you don't agree with. You don't have to agree with cultural practices, you just need to learn more about a cultural community and their shared experience.
What pre-Islamic traditions are practiced in the Middle East? Does Christianity have a place?
Why are there many more national identities than there are countries?

Why are the political boundaries straight lines sometimes? http://goo.gl/maps/h4eo5

Why does religion seem to play a more important role? Or, does it?
Full transcript