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Middle East Studies: Tricontinental Junction: An Introduction

Jenkins Macedo
Professor Eskandari
GE 410-E1 (ST: Middle East Changing Environment)
Chapter 1:

Tricontinental Junction: An Introduction

The textbook “Middle East Patterns: Places, Peoples, and Politics was written by Colbert C. Held a Retired Diplomat-in-Residence at the Baylor University in Waco, Texas. His book presented details analysis of the people, places and geopolitics of the countries in the Middle East in an effort to serve as an educational instrument in the process of learning about the region; that is, the Middle East. It is also his ambition that this piece of academic and scholastic work will serve as a mean to bridge the gap created as a result of the negative materials printed about the Middle East and also what we see on the News Media.
The book is divided into nineteen chapters that contain diverse sub-headings under two broad titles. The first eight chapters of the book is centered around the issue of the Physical and Cultural Geography of the region; whereas, the last eleven chapters talks about the “Regional Geography” of the region detailing significant geographic peculiarities of each nation within the area.
Chapter 1 serves as an introductory chapter of the book firstly stating an overview of the region by describing the location of the Middle East and how that has local, national, regional and global significance to other areas of development such as economy, transportation, natural resources, and global trade. However, the author mentioned in the second opening paragraph that the “Middle East has been prominently featured in the news almost everyday since 1947” (Held, 2006). Most of these news carried negative undertone of the region forgetting to mention the rich cultural diversities of the region, the landscapes, natural resources and the people that live there. Notwithstanding, fewer news media agencies do provide objective in-depth analyses of the region’s “complex underlying regional patterns, peoples, cultures, politics, and aspirations” (Held, 2006). These cultures according to my current understanding of global politics and development issues also spread throughout the world mostly industrialized nations. The socio-economic, political and cultural development of most developed and developing countries are all interconnected with issues in the Middle East. These interconnections range from the exportation or importation of fuel oil, cedar, religious believes and rich cultural diversities.
The very geographic location of the Middle East on the world map has significant impacts on the global economy. The region is situated right in the middle of three very important continents Africa, Asia and Europe. Nevertheless, over the years the region has been frequently associated with “petroleum or terrorism or Islamic resurgence or Israeli security or regime change or other single issues which obscures the breadth and complexity of the region” (Held, 2006).
By definition of the region the author presented diverse scholars’ definitions of what constitute the Meddle East. The region is situated within the center of three continents with Europe to the North and Africa in the West, Asia on the East and the Indian Ocean in the South. The Middle East or “Fertile Crescent” as it was formerly known “constitutes the land mass between Northeast Africa to South Asia” (Held, 2006).
The nomenclature of the region is subject to Western perceptions and ideologies of the region based on historical developments as they unfold. Some of the names that have been ascribed to the region include the Fertile Crescent, East, Orient, Levant, Near East or Nearer East, and the Middle East. In 1902, Captain Alfred T. Mahan employed the name “Middle East for an indefinite area around the Gulf” (Held, 2006). However, it was not until the 1930s when the “potential applicability of the designated name was reinforced by the British government when they applied the “Middle East Command” to military forces in the area” (Held, 2006).

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