Phi Beta Cons

MESA’s Closed Mind

The fall meeting of the Middle East Studies Association, which represents scholars in that discipline, promises once again to be an exercise in most unscholarly prejudice and political correctness.

Among the topics to be discussed are “Anxious for Armageddon: Christian Zionism and U.S. Policy in the Middle East”; “Bad Fences for Bad Neighbors: The Divisive Process of the Israel-Palestine Border”; “A Tale of Two Walled Cities: Jerusalem and Johannesburg”; and “Expression under Duress: Palestinian Creative and Visual Arts.”
Bruce Thornton draws an interesting parallel between MESA and Middle Eastern culture itself:

…the virtues missing in much of the Middle East–a rational search for order, a commitment to tolerance and pluralism, the triumph of reason over passion, and open intellectual inquiry–are absent from MESA’s fall conference. Ironically, by mimicking their research subjects’ cultural traits and habits of mind that stand most in need of reform, MESA offers an unintended warning to the rest of us on the costs of jettisoning Western scholarly norms: the willingness to ignore crucial topics, and to accept cant as scholarship, can ossify an entire profession as easily as it can retard a society.

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