Encounters with Civilizations: From Alexander the Great to Mother Teresa

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Encounters with Civilizations is a broad-ranging work, uniting sweeping themes such as history, culture, the media, social issues, and politics. Building around comparative analyses of aspects of Albanian, Egyptian, British, and Indian cultures, Alpion addresses the problems people experience in their encounters with civilizations different from their birth cultures.

The course of history has made the confrontation and comingling of different cultures inevitable. It has also engendered ambivalence toward the cultures involved, including a desire to emulate the new culture, or resentment, or conflicting attitudes toward the relative strength or weakness of both birth and new cultures. Alpion describes how Egyptian culture and politics have been shaped by foreign domination while retaining ancient customs at the social level. In comparison, Great Britain has been an imperial power whose cultural preeminence has shaped the images of smaller countries in the eyes of the world. Alpion writes of English images of his native Albania and offers a penetrating analysis of Mother Teresa as a Christian missionary in Hindu and Muslim India, focusing on her cultural presentation via the media and the cult of celebrity.

Whether discussing the customs of Egyptian coffee houses or Alexander the Great as a defining figure in Western and Eastern culture, Alpion grasps the impact of these cultural encounters. He makes us aware that understanding and resolving such differences involves considering ultimate issues of life and death.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“[O]ne of the main theses of the book, [is] that there is, especially in the Academia, an inbuilt discrimination and injustice against countries outside the First World, and that Albania and other East European nations suffer the same or similar discrimination as West Asian Islamic countries, and the African and Asian continents… [T]he book has many valuable features: it could serve as compulsory reading of an advanced teaching of media ethics, especially in part 3, that ends with an appeal to Western journalists which can apply to all journalism, to “render their own inestimable contribution to make Europe [ and the world, I add] whole.” It explores the significance of Mother Teresa’s “dark night of the soul” in the postmodernist culture; it brings out the importance sociological concept of “fame capital” as a variable in international and intra-national contexts, speaks of the politics of faith and disbelief in our culture, of cognitive and intellectual property, and the place of copyrights… And of course we learn much about Albania and surrounding countries. The book relays a voice from the margins that comes from inside the geography at times wrongly considered to be uniformly the “rich world.”” —G. Gispert-Sauch, S.J., Vidyajyoti Journal of Theological Reflection “Like all good sociologists Alpion illuminates the core of a society through an analysis of its margins…. Alpion offers us a view of the other that is not embittered or destructive but ultimately positive and challenging.” Professor Brian Shoesmith, Edith Cowan University, Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies “Reminiscent of Durkheim”s writings on strangers in places, Encounters with Civilizations, covers centuries and cultures both past and present…. [Alpion] encourages us to think reflectively and critically about our own beliefs, experiences and understandings, and thus helps to open up the possibility for change and the encounters with “civilizations” (others and our own) that we experience daily, either personally or through the media.” Dr. Claire Smetherham, University of Bristol, Albanian Journal of Politics “Alpion looks very insightfully into the ways in which so many, particularly those of religious and political groups and the media, have distorted the life and work of Mother Teresa, not least Malcolm Muggeridge in his ‘discovery’ of her in l968.” Antonia Young, University of Bradford, Central & Eastern European Review Journal “Two important behavioural traits appear throughout the book and the author has taken considerable pains to weave the manifestations of these traits in each of the locales presented in the book. These are ‘foreigner complex’ and ‘social closure’.... The book has important messages for those wishing to seek their futures on foreign soil.” Professor Bonita Aleaz, University of Calcutta, India, The Statesman “Globalization has brought an increased awareness of the interconnectedness of cultures, while a historical awareness shows the hubris involved in any presumption of a privileged centre. Dr Gëzim Alpion is the ideal companion in travels across and within cultures. He brings a sensitive humanism and the eye of an acute scholar to address diverse issues of cross-cultural understanding in divided worlds. These essays will be necessary reading.” Professor John Holmwood, University of Birmingham “This book provides further proof that Professor Gëzim Alpion is one of the most intelligent and acute observers in the world of the situation of Albanian culture and its most famous modern representative, Mother Teresa. His work is destined to be controversial but should be read as widely as possible, and his book Mother Teresa: Saint or Celebrity? will, I believe, prove a standard and indispensable resource.” Stephen Schwartz, Author of Two Faces of Islam “[Alpion] seeks to do on paper what Mohammed Ali did in politics: release Egypt from the psychosis of its national inferiority complex, restore its nationhood, and revive Egypt for the Egyptians. And in Foreigner Complex he comes closer to depicting the essence of five thousand years of Egyptian identity than a thousand newspaperdespatches from Cairo.” Nicolas Pelham, Former Editor, The Middle East Times, Jerusalem correspondent, The Economist “The author does take up certain controversial issues in the book. The volume argues for cross-cultural understanding and co-existence of civilizations. It gives the message to people across civilizations to embrace the ‘other’ without prejudice.” P. K. Pabla, Cordia College, International Journal on Humanistic Ideology
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781412818315
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/18/2011
  • Pages: 327
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Gaston Roberge, teaches film and communication at St. Xavier’s College. He has written fifteen books, one of which, Communication Cinema Development (Manohar, 1998), won an award at the National Film Festival of India in 1999.

Gëzim Alpion is lecturer in sociology in the department of political science and international studies at the University of Birmingham, UK. His works include Vouchers , Foreigner Complex: Essays and Fiction about Egypt , Mother Teresa: Saint or Celebrity? (2007) and If Only the Dead Could Listen .

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements xiii

Foreword Gaston Roberge xvii

Part 1 Albania 1

1 An interview with the ghost of Mohammed Ali, former ruler of Egypt 3

2 Kosova - a corner of Europe still waiting for peace 15

Part 2 Egypt 21

3 Foreigner complex 23

i When in Rome 23

ii Back to the army 26

iii Enslaved by the slaves 27

iv Complete apathy 29

v Cultural invasion 31

vi Cracked hut not broken 33

vii Becoming foreign to become Egyptian 36

viii The making of Egypt's politicians 38

ix Egypt for the Egyptians 41

4 Egyptian coffee shops 45

i The ancient drinking-places 45

ii The advent of coffee 47

iii The Alexandrian bursa 49

iv The Cairo club 52

v The rural gharza 55

5 The Bride of Hapi - female sacrifice and cosmic order 59

i The genesis of the rite 59

ii The drowning 63

iii The revival 66

6 A parade of porters 71

i The Nubian doorman 72

ii The peasant bowab 74

iii The simsars in their prime 76

iv Today's bowab 78

Part 3 The United Kingdom 81

7 If Only the Dead Could Listen (a play) 83

Cast and Crew 84

Synopsis (Scenes One, Two and Three) 85

Scene Four 87

Synopsis (Scene Five) 102

8 Images of Albania and Albanians in English literature - from Edith Durham's High Albania to J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter 103

9 Western media and the European 'other' - images of Albania in the British press 117

i Introduction 117

ii Expanding the Orient 118

iii Racial prejudice towards the Balkans 122

iv Identity crisis 126

v The exotic archive 127

vi The Death of the Journalist 138

vii The price of biased journalism 140

viii The media and double standards 147

Part 4 India 153

10 Oh! not Calcutta 155

11 Media and celebrity culture - subjectivist, structuralist and post-structuralist approaches to Mother Teresa's celebrity status 159

12 A review of Hiromi J. Kudo's book Mother Teresa: A Saint from Skopje 185

13 A note on Gëzim Alpion's book Mother Teresa: Saint or Celebrity? By Gaston Roberge 189

14 Mother Teresa, abortion and the media By Gaston Roberge 193

Introduction: In praise of Mother Teresa 193

Part 1 Mother Teresa's thought about abortion 194

Part 2 How Mother Teresa talked about abortion 201

a A prophetic approach 202

b The Nobel Prize for Peace: acceptance speech and Nobel lecture 203

Part 3 How the media reported Mother Teresa's statements about abortion 207

a The Nobel Prize for Peace 207

b A feature film on Mother Teresa 209

Conclusion: The logic behind Mother Teresa's concern about abortion 212

Envoi: 'No' to social closure 215

15 Brain down the drain: an exposé of social closure in Western academia 217

i Introduction 217

ii The modern workhouse 218

iii Brain drain: a new chapter of an old story 222

iv Dictatorship and intellectual exodus 225

v Between myth and reality 227

vi An Italian and Japanese affair 236

vii The long journey home 237

viii Defining the 'ethnic' 238

Notes 245

Select bibliography 269

Index 287

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