Two UC Berkeley graduate students in anthropology are generating international interest with a 600-page anthology relating to the events of Sept. 11.
Misha Klein and Adrian McIntyre, who are in the campus's College of Letters & Science, are busy sorting through requests for “September 11: Contexts and Consequences,” the thick, paperback reader they edited to provide critical thinking and informed debate about the new U.S. war.
The anthology offers maps, background information, poetry, opinion pieces, research articles by scholars and an interview with Osama bin Laden – all relating to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
Hundreds of calls and e-mails have arrived from South Africa, Oxford University, London, Michigan, Australia, Texas and India, as well as from other universities and colleges across the
United States, asking for the anthology or thanking the students for preparing it.
Barrie Thorne, a professor in UC Berkeley's sociology and women's studies departments said the anthology feeds a tremendous hunger for knowledge and perspective about Sept. 11 and its aftermath.
“This is a university at its best: scholars taking the initiative to compile and share knowledge, with a sense of collective urgency to learn and to discuss,” Thorne said. “Misha Klein and Adrian McIntyre have drawn together knowledge that makes a difference in the world.”
Nezar AlSayyad, professor and chair of UC Berkeley's Center for Middle Eastern Studies, said the center has several copies of the anthology that are available for students and the public.
“It is useful for anyone with little knowledge of the background and context of U.S./Arab and Muslim relations prior to 9/11,” he said.
While there is a staggering amount of information on the Internet, Klein and McIntyre said much of the accurate, readable material they found came from the library of the UC Berkeley anthropology department, consistently one of the top three anthropology programs in the country.
The students said they chose the information with their own families in mind.
“What we really wanted to do was create a work with multiple perspectives that can be easily understood,” McIntyre said. “We asked ourselves, ‘Would our families want to read this?’”
They also said they chose materials that show the current conflict is far from new, but represents an escalation of a longstanding, international conflict on several levels.
“Because we keep treating this as a crisis, there is no effort to understand it in any way other than as a series of isolated events,” Klein said.
Klein and McIntyre drew on their experiences in anthropology, in the classroom and in the field. Klein is finishing her doctoral dissertation on ethnic and national identity in Brazil.
McIntyre is a doctoral student focusing on the interpretation of history and heritage in contemporary Jordan.
The material is organized in four sections: geographical, historical and cultural background; terrorism; war and violence; and post-Sept. 11 commentaries.
In the first section, selections include a 1989 essay by UC Berkeley anthropologist Laura Nader noting that while the “West” laments the plight of women in Third World countries and vice-versa, misleading cultural comparisons by both sides divert attention from processes at work to control women in each society.
It also features a primer with distinctions between terms such as Arab, Middle Eastern and Muslim. It explains what a “rogue state” really is and contains a piece detailing the anthropology of Islam. It explains the variety and forms of Islamic religion and spirituality with the goal of promoting understanding without labeling, the students said.
The second section features the bin Laden interview, a 1982 piece by Chalmers Johnson about terrorism, Gore Vidal’s “Vanity Fair” article called “The Meaning of Timothy McVeigh” and an outline of 10 important things to know about terrorism.
The third section focusing on war and violence includes material from Hannah Arendt, Margaret Mead and Sigmund Freud.
In the final section are a couple dozen commentaries from the days following Sept. 11 by authors such as Susan Sontag, Arundhati Roy and Barbara Kingsolver. It also includes an
explanation by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) about why she voted against the U.S. strikes against Afghanistan.
“It is a superb collection of materials on Afghanistan, war, and the current situation following Sept. 11th, with a variety of anthropological and other informed sources,” said Gerald
Berreman, professor emeritus of anthropology at UC Berkeley. “It should be essential reading for anyone seriously interested in ‘the politics of truth.’”
“From World War II through the post-Cold War period, anthropologists such as Margaret Mead, Marshall Sahlins, Gerald Berreman and Laura Nader have dedicated themselves to understanding war while advocating for peace and justice,” wrote McIntyre and Klein. “We seek to continue this commitment to linking academic research with active engagement in broader public discussions.”
The anthology is being made available on reserve at local public libraries in the city of Berkeley and at other colleges and universities around the San Francisco Bay Area, with the aid of some funding from the UC Berkeley Graduate Assembly.
Deborah Pruitt appreciates having copies of the anthology available to her students in anthropology and cross-disciplinary research at Laney College in Oakland, Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Chabot College in Hayward and the Western Institute for Social Research in Berkeley.
“For those of us teaching in community colleges and small private schools caught in the middle of a semester of overload teaching schedules, there is no time to do the background
research necessary in a timely way to provide sufficient information to our students to help them make sense out of such dramatic world events,”she said. “This anthology allows us to broaden our scope quickly, facilitating accurate and thoughtful information flow.”
The anthology is available at CopyCentral, 2560 Bancroft Ave., Berkeley. The CopyCentral phone number is (510) 848-8649 and its Web site is www.copycentral.com. The anthology, priced only to cover costs, is $41.68 plus tax.