How Eurocentric Is Your Day?

M. Shahid Alam

Muslim AstronomersAt the outset of the classes I teach, I always address the question of bias in the social sciences. In one course – on the history of the global economy – this is the central theme. It critiques Eurocentric biases in several leading Western accounts of the rise of the global economy.

This fall, I began my first lecture on Eurocentrism by asking my students, How Eurocentric is your day? I explained what I wanted to hear from them. Can they get through a typical day without running into ideas, institutions, values, technologies and products that originated outside the West – in China, India, the Islamicate or Africa?

The question befuddled my students. I proceeded to pepper them with questions about the things they do during a typical day, from the time they wake up.

Unbeknownst, my students discover that they wake up in ‘pajamas,’ trousers of Indian origin with an Urdu-Persian name. Out of bed, they shower with soap and shampoo, whose origins go back to the Middle East and India. Their tooth brush with bristles was invented in China in the fifteenth century. At some point after waking up, my students use toilet paper and tissue, also Chinese inventions of great antiquity.

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Good Cop, Bad Cop

Big brother is blogging you!
Big brother is blogging you (a scene from 1984)

Considering that past winners have included the frothing-at-the-mouth zionut Mellanie Phillips, it would perhaps be more accurate to rename the Orwell Prize the Orwellian Prize. Here is Ross McKibbin on this year’s winner for the best political blog. Here is Ross McKibbin on this year’s winner for the best political blog.

The Orwell Prize committee this year introduced a new prize for political blogging. It has been won by an anonymous ‘English detective’ who calls himself ‘NightJack’. His posts are a mixture of general comment and diary accounts of apparently typical days in the lives of English policemen. They are vigorously written and sometimes perfectly reasonable. NightJack regrets that the police today are kitted out as imperial stormtroopers, he has little nostalgia for the old canteen culture, he laments the mass of paperwork that has been foisted on the police (like everyone else in the public sector) and fairly argues that if plea-bargaining is to become entrenched it ought to be formalised.

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Zionism: the Zionist Victims

How could 94% of Israeli Jews have supported the massacre in Gaza? How is it that many Israeli Jews quite genuinely see themselves as the victims, even when the death count is one Israeli to a hundred Palestinians, even when their ethnically-cleansed enemy starves in refugee camps? An incredible statistic: 40 percent of Israeli Jews are unaware that at the end of the 19th century, the Arabs were an absolute majority in Palestine. Having just watched Norman Finkelstein’s thought-provoking lecture on the use of Ghandian tactics to change Israeli Jewish as well as international opinion on Palestine, I find the below article, in which the great Israeli journalist Akiva Eldar throws some light on the indoctrination of Israeli Jews, to be particularly interesting. We have to work to educate Israelis as much as anyone else.

A new study of Jewish Israelis shows that most accept the ‘official version’ of the history of the conflict with the Palestinians. Is it any wonder, then, that the same public also buys the establishment explanation of the operation in Gaza?

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