silverstein book imageExploring Violence in the
Post-Colonial Middle East

Associate professor of anthropology Paul Silverstein has collaborated with Rice University professor Ussama Makdisi to edit a new book, Memory and Violence in the Middle East and North Africa (Indiana University Press, 2006).

This timely collection features essays that examine the relationship between bloody conflicts—the Franco-Algerian war, the Lebanese civil war, and the present-day Arab-Israeli conflict—and memories of past violence. In the introduction, Silverstein and Makdisi write: “This complexity, this deep entanglement of myth and memory, is forged by the confluence of the powerful legacy of a late, and in some instances still ongoing, colonialism and the deliberate policies pursued by postcolonial governments.”

The essays come from a variety of disciplines, including English literature, anthropology, and Arabic studies. Together, the accounts indict societies and governments that engage in deliberate forgetfulness, and suggest that the road to peace involves remembrance and understanding of historical divisions. Says Silverstein: “the essays cover technologies of commemoration and amnesia including archaeology; nationalist historiography; museums; bulldozing of villages, cemeteries, and village shrines; and rebuilding processes. A major question is the role of such technologies and processes in the politics of reconciliation and conflict resolution.”