Civilizational Thinking

“Civilizational thinking” is a phrase I hadn’t encountered before, but I like it: you could use it to sum up what we do at Power Line. The phrase was used by Lila Abu-Lughod, a professor at Columbia, who didn’t intend it as a compliment. At American Thinker, Phyllis Chesler reports:

[Abu-Lughod] believes that indigenous Arab and Muslim behavior, including honor-related violence, is best understood as a consequence of Western colonialism — perhaps even of “Islamophobia.”
On October 25, 2010, at the American University of Beirut, Abu-Lughod admonished feminists who ostensibly sensationalize honor killings, a position which, in her opinion, represents “simplistic, civilizational thinking.” She “warned that an obsessive focus on the so-called honor crime may have negative repercussions” and that “people should be wary of classifying certain acts as a distinctive form of violence against women.” …
Abu-Lughod opposed the “concept of clear-cut divisions between cultures, which she viewed as a form of imprisoning rural and immigrant communities,” and suggested that focusing on “honor crimes” allowed “scholars and activists to ignore important contexts for violence against women: social tensions; political conflicts; forms of racial, class, and ethnic discrimination; religious movements; government policing and surveillance; and military intervention.”

Abu-Lughod, who apparently bills herself as a feminist, also argues that the burqa can be “read as a sign of educated, urban sophistication, a sort of modernity” and has had kind words to say about polygamy.
One might be tempted to write off Ms. Abu-Lughod as a lunatic, but as Chesler reminds us, she is a lunatic of a very particular sort:

Abu-Lughod herself and her professor parents are all products of an American academic establishment: Her Palestinian-American father, Ibrahim, taught at Northwestern University for 35 years; her Jewish-American mother, Janet Lippman Abu-Lughod, did so for twenty years. Their daughter was raised a Muslim — but in America, not the Middle East. She attended Carleton College in Minnesota and received her Ph.D. from Harvard. Abu-Lughod is married to another Columbia professor of Middle East studies, Timothy Mitchell, who shares her views about Palestine, Israel, and America. They and others represent an academy which has also sacrificed most real feminist values and curriculum for a hard-left agenda which masquerades as “feminism.”

Why the American academy so readily makes itself a home for both evil and stupidity is a big topic, but Professor Abu-Lughod stands as a good example of the phenomenon.

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