Saturday, May 12, 2007

scene at/from a feast: chewing on tradition

roz, jamal, snobar, kheimeh, theory
Orientalism is a whole and interdisciplinary perspective of the West. Said said (I mean Edward Said said, hehehe - this could be a good start for Derrida's fireworks) almost all that is needed to comprehend how biased, authoritative, simplistic and utilitarian is the reading of the close "other". I recall though with a kind of thankful melancholy the excellent work of Elli Skopetea, Orient's West (He Dyse tes Anatoles) about the ways that the West was perceived in the Near East, basically in response to the orientalist approach (check,for instance, by K.E.Fleming and by Ioulia Pentazou). It would be so interesting to her to watch the last day of the conference on Discourse at U.J. And who knows, perhaps restless minds of her kin follow the announcements of conferences and spend some moments watching and enjoying in the infinity of eternal time. I f , i say I f , i could invite here from the frigid lands of her heavenly archive, I would tell her "Elli do not miss by no means professor Nafiz Shahin" (min ton haseis, tha haseis). And then we would look at each other in sparkling joy, eyes of an amused comprehension.

I do not want to make things cryptic; here is the story: Last Thursday, at around 9:40 a.m., in Amman, this aforementioned wise scholar illuminated us with his announcement under the title "Cross-cultural Bias in Language Teaching Textbooks. Is it there?" Great God! Some of these local scholars are bright I guess, because they are the ones that they do not use manuscripts or PowerPoint presentations; they just open their mouths and wisdom showers all of us at the hall. His title did not reveal exactly his point. The point was that the textbooks of teaching/learning English as a foreign language are produced with the sole intention to insult the local culture, to undermine cultural values, to corrupt the Jordanian youth and, in few words, to achieve a fatal blow on Islam. The textbooks talk about girls with mini skirts, about wine glasses and just lead young people go astray. The professor after 7 minutes started wondering whether he should give examples or not, since he had plenty in his bag (he did not bring any finally because he did not want to expose them: to expose whom, for the love of the Almighty? authors that live in New Zealand and Minneapolis??? I do not believe they would mind. And anyway the bag seemed empty to me, with the exception of his cigarettes packet.)

He would like to teach Islamic English, where Big Ben strangely resembles to Burj Al Arab, and the House of the Parliament is a reflection of the Omayyad Mosque in Damascus. He hinted to the fact that he is member of the censorship committee, protesting in a way that this kind of textbooks forces them to work hard and to reject books despite their willingness to be open and welcoming. I WONDER: will he dare to give out this oral masterpiece in written form? Will it be published in the Acta of the conference? In that case, I will photocopy it and will use it as a wallpaper for my room of impressions.

Apropos, along with my theological set of beliefs, coincidences prove the Divine Presence. It was this very person that invited me with some 5 months of delay to deliver my paper on contemporary Greek literature at the University of Applied Science last December. Thanks to the Dices of Destiny it was the same day that I had to organize the Greek Day at our University.
Ok, I chose the funny aspect, because I remembered the playful eyes of Elli Skopetea. But there were very useful parts as well: Prof. Kiki Kennedy Day spoke gracefully about dreams in islamic literary texts. And Irma Ratiani from Georgia used the anthropological notion of liminality in studying the practice of literary production.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

i must admit I got really upset as i was listening to this professor, especially when he started mentioning something about Inferior culture and Superior culture.. He showed himself inferior by his own words.. I don't know.. the way he was taking these textbooks personally as if they were specially designed to offend Arabs.. I just can't take this anymore, this professor HIMSELF was enforcing again the idea that we can't help but to NEVER have confidence in ourselves.. that everything in the whole world aims at humiliating Arabs and Islam..


3:04 PM  
Blogger Vas said...

One may think a lot on the topic, on reasons, on explanations, on ways out. Sometimes, dear luma, I think it is just a matter of laziness and consequent incompetence that brings about this stance: since we do not want to search, read or doubt in depth about issues of identity or intellect, or theory, we assume the stance of the victim or of the defending power. I would not be surprised if during the years of his studies he has been engaged in all 7 sins successively or randomly (I suggest that in general, not personally). THE CONCLUSION IS "stop giving scholarships". IT IS A CRY for justice.

5:56 PM  
Blogger alex said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:01 AM  
Blogger Moey said...

long time vas.

2:17 AM  
Blogger Vas said...

true my dear moey. but while one goes through a phase of thoughtful reconsideration, one may easily become a hostage of silence.

7:35 AM  
Blogger Moey said...

I hope you read my last post, and like it :)

8:24 AM  
Blogger Vas said...

now i did and certainly i did :)

1:54 PM  

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