The Metahistory of the Clash of Civilisations
Us and Them Beyond Orientalism
This book seeks to dispel the myth that we have ever been embroiled in some ‘clash of civilisations’. Adib-Moghaddam traverses various intellectual disciplines in order to find a pathway through the conceptual maze that has habituated us to think in ‘tribal’ categories. Accompanying the reader on this journey from the wars between ancient Persia and Greece, the Crusades, Colonialism and the Enlightenment to the contemporary ‘wars on terror’ are thinkers from ‘East’ and ‘West’: Adorno, Derrida, Farabi, Foucault, Hegel, Khayyam, Marcuse, Marx, Said, Ibn Sina, Weber. In asking where ideas such as the ‘clash of civilisations’ come from, and by whom they are perpetuated, Adib-Moghaddam engages with both western and Islamic representations of the ‘other’. He demonstrates a) the discontinuities between ‘Islamism’ and the canon of classical Islamic philosophy distinguishing between ‘Avicennian’ and ‘Qutbian’ discourses of Islam, and b) how the violence inscribed in the idea of the ‘West’, especially during the period of the Enlightenment, continues to cast a shadow on world politics today. Expanding the geography of critical theory to include the canons of Islamic philosophy and poetry, The Metahistory of the Clash of Civilisations refuses to divorce Muslims from Europeans, Americans from Arabs, the Orient from the Occident. As such, it presents a frontal attack on our current cultural reality and Islamist-Western agitation against each other.
Arshin Adib-Moghaddam is Reader in Comparative Politics and International Relations and Chair of the Centre for Iranian Studies at SOAS, University of London. He is the author of The International Politics of the Persian Gulf: A Cultural Genealogy (2006, 2009), Iran in World Politics: The Question of the Islamic Republic (Hurst/OUP, 2008, 2010), and A Metahistory of the Clash of Civilisations: Us and Them Beyond Orientalism (Hurst/OUP 2011). Educated at the Universities of Hamburg, American (Washington DC) and Cambridge, where he received his MPhil and PhD, he was the first Jarvis Doctorow Fellow in International Relations and Peace Studies at St. Edmund Hall and the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford. Since 2007, Adib-Moghaddam has been with the Department of Politics and International Studies at SOAS. He is a frequent contributor to leading newspapers and TV channels around the world.
‘This passionate and elegant work is a vigorous antidote to a constellation of discourses steeped in the Weltanschauung that the title of Samuel Huntington’s infamous book encapsulates so well. Arshin Adib-Moghaddam’s reflections are a stimulating contribution to Edward Said’s legacy of radical critique of all essentialist constructions of otherness. — Prof. Gilbert Achcar, author of The Arabs and the Holocaust and (with Noam Chomsky) Perilous Power: The Middle East and US Foreign Policy
‘What Adib-Moghaddam has done is to establish an exceptionally powerful refutation of clashing civilisations. Eloquently, rigorously and imaginatively, he traces and critiques genealogies of binary and simple oppositional thought and argues that the future of the world depends on our accepting and understanding complexities and internal oppositions.’ — Prof. Stephen Chan, 2010 International Studies Association (ISA) Eminent Scholar in Global Development
‘Eloquent, powerful, incisive and impressive in its range, A Metahistory of the Clash of Civilisations is a masterly work of critical deconstruction in the finest tradition of Michel Foucault and Edward Said. For anyone wishing to better understand the current state of international politics, this book is absolutely essential.’ — Richard Jackson, Secretary of the British International Studies Association (BISA)
‘Adib-Moghaddam shows convincingly that the idea of the clash of civilisations, especially in its latest manifestations, acquires a life of its own, detaching itself from the reality of the Western and Islamic worlds. The true believers of each side derive strength and credibility from their opposite numbers. The idea of a clash of civilisations is dangerous because it can draw us all into the conflict. … a book with an important message.’ — Asian Affairs