700 free e-books to up your Middle East IQ

Free e-bookLooking for some good reads about the environment and the Middle East? Then click yourself into the University of California Press (UCP) e-books collection (link here) offering free access to hundreds of books published by UCP and other academic presses. 

You can’t download the books; instead click and add titles to an “bookbag” function that stores your selections so you can read online at your own pace.

These ten titles that may grab you, publisher briefs offer a synopsis for each:

The Forgiving Air: Understanding Environmental Change by Richard Somerville (UCP 1996)
Written by a scientist for non-scientists, this primer humanizes the great environmental issues of our time highlighting the interrelatedness of human activity and global change.  The hole in the ozone layer, the greenhouse effect, acid rain, and air pollution are explained in accessible prose. A new preface addresses developments in environmental policy that have occurred since publication.

Pollution in a Promised Land: an Environmental History of Israel  by Alon Tal (UCP 2002)
Virtually undeveloped one hundred years ago, Israel, the promised “land of milk and honey,” is in ecological disarray. Alon Tal provides the first-time-ever history of Israeli environmentalism, interviewing hundreds of experts and activists who have made it their mission to keep the country’s remarkable development sustainable amid a century of political and cultural turmoil.

Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and U.S. Interests in the Middle East, 1945-2000 by Melani McAlister (UCP 2001) In the twentieth century, cultural products (films, news, museum exhibits and novels) profoundly shaped ideas about the relationship between America and the Middle East. In this interdisciplinary work, McAlister  explores the significant intersection of culture and politics that is at the heart of both nationalism and globalization.

Mass Mediations: New Approaches to Popular Culture in the Middle East and Beyond by Walter Armbrust (UCP 2000)  Mass media are as ubiquitous in Cairo and Karachi as in Los Angeles and Detroit, and popular culture through mass media defines the scale and character of social interaction in the Middle East.. From Persian popular music in Beverly Hills to postmodern Turkish novels to the music of an Israeli transsexual singer, these essays illustrate the multiple contexts of modern cultural production and challenge conventional assumptions about the region and its relation to the West.

Colonising Egypt by Timothy Mitchell (UCP 1991)
Timothy Mitchell examines the peculiarity of Western conceptions of order and truth through a re-reading of Europe’s colonial encounter with nineteenth-century Egypt.

Frontiers and Ghettos: State Violence in Serbia and Israel by James Ron (UCP 2003)
James Ron uses controversial comparisons between Serbia and Israel to present a novel theory of state violence. Formerly a research consultant to Human Rights Watch and the International Red Cross, Ron witnessed remarkably different patterns of state coercion. He presents an institutional approach to state violence, drawing on his field research in the Middle East, Balkans, Chechnya, and Turkey, as well as dozens of rare interviews with military veterans, officials, and political activists on all sides. Studying violence from the ground up, the book develops an exciting new framework for analyzing today’s nationalist wars.

A Radical Jew: Paul and the Politics of Identity by Daniel Boyarin (UCP 1994)
Are the Epistles of Paul the spiritual autobiography of a first-century Jewish cultural critic? What led Paul – in his dramatic conversion to Christianity – to such a radical critique of Jewish culture? The book examines the apostle’s famous formulation, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, no male and female in Christ”, encouraging a richer appreciation of our own cultural quandaries as male and female, gay and straight, Israeli and Palestinian, and as humans.

A Nation of Empire: The Ottoman Legacy of Turkish Modernity by Michael E. Meeker (UCP 2002)  Michael Meeker combines anthropological and historical methods to examine the transition from the Ottoman Empire to the Turkish Republic, providing a new understanding of the complexities and contradictions of modern Turkish experience.

Remaking the Modern: Space, Relocation, and the Politics of Identity in a Global Cairo by Farha Ghannam (UCP 2002)  In an effort to restyle Cairo into a global capital meeting the demands of tourists and investors and to achieve President Anwar Sadat’s goal to modernize the housing of the urban poor, the Egyptian government relocated residents from what was deemed valuable real estate in downtown Cairo to public housing on city outskirts. Based on years of ethnographic fieldwork among five thousand working-class families, this presents an illuminating analysis of Cairo’s urban engineering and the struggle of the working class community to confront associated alienation and dislocation.

Three Mothers, Three Daughters: Palestinian Women’s Stories by Michael Ghorkin (UCP 1996)
This remarkable collection of oral histories from six Palestinian women affords an unparalleled view into the daily lives of women who have lived, and continue to live, through a turbulent and rapidly changing era. Highly personal events such as courting, marriage, and childbirth are interwoven with memories of upheavals such as the wars of 1948 and 1967. These beautifully written narratives bear witness to the power of Palestinian culture in sustaining the often difficult lives of women and provides brilliant testimony to the experience of living in the midst of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The collection is dynamic, with new titles being added over time.  Browse for yourself, drop a few titles in your bookbag.  They even offer a cookbook.  Maybe there is a such thing as a free lunch.

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