A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Defining the Middle East

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on November 19, 2008

Yesterday MESH (the Middle East Strategy at Harvard blog) had what seemed to be a delightfully time-wasting post on online quizzes about the Middle East.

I didn’t find any time to waste yesterday, but while stuck on a phone call this afternoon, I decided to try my hand at two geography quizzes aimed at testing my ability to correctly identify each Middle Eastern country on a map: Geo Quizz Middle East and Rethinking Schools’ Map Game.

Some of my errors were totally my fault. What was I thinking, forgetting about Libya? Or putting Oman where the UAE should be?

But others I would argue were the fault of the designers, and the general US tendency to leave “Middle East” as an ill-defined catch-all region.

What was Pakistan doing on these map quizzes? Why was Mali included?

Should North Africa be included (or central Africa, for that matter)? Should the ‘stans?

The two quizzes each listed roughly 35 countries as belonging to the Middle East. I find this fascinating, but I wish they had included a working definition of the term. Is it geography that connects all these countries? Culture? Religion? Language? When the scope is this broad, it seems to me that what they end up sharing is simply the “middle-ness” of being in the catch-all bin.

Anyway. Take the quizzes and enjoy – and if you do better than I did on in Africa and Central Asia, chalk my request for a “working definition” up to sour grapes 🙂 .

One Response to “Defining the Middle East”

  1. qussa said

    My boyfriend’s theory is that this ‘broadening’ of what is the Middle East, or even using the term ‘Middle East’ at all, is an attempt to de-arabify the region – for political reasons of course. Once ‘Middle East’ is no longer synonymous with ‘Arab’, Israel is can no longer be considered a strange intruder. That said, I think this game is made by a hobbyist, because if you read the comments he also forgot to include Bahrain… and he’s fixing it if you ask 🙂

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