The Twentieth Century Revisited Surveys and Approaches

The twentieth century found scholars and interested observers alike deploying a multitude of approaches to the often intransigent narrative of the Middle East in general and the faith of Islam in particular. Three of these approaches will be surveyed briefly in the pages which follow. They are not intended to be exclusive or conclusive, or to indicate in any way that there were no other worthwhile approaches to our subject. They are merely intended to be illustrative of a diversity which embraced structuralism and semiotics190 on the one hand and post-modernism191 on the other.

I shall therefore survey three ways: (1) The Way of the Historian of Religion, illustrated by The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality? by John L. Esposito192 and Islam in Modern History by Wilfred Cantwell Smith;193 (2) The Way of the Anthropologist, illustrated by Recognizing Islam: An Anthropologist's Introduction by Michael Gilsenan,194 Moroccan Islam: Tradition and Society in a Pilgrimage Center by Dale F. Eickelman195 and Islam Observed by Clifford Geertz;196 and, finally, (3) The Way of the Traveller, illustrated by two works from the pen of the Nobel Laureate Sir Vidia Naipaul, in which he describes his forays into the Islamic world: Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey197 and Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions Among the Converted Peoples.198 These brief surveys are designed as a form of prelude or overture by which to highlight the approaches which will be attempted in this volume.

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