Archive for the ‘Politics & History’ Category

Obama and America’s image in the world

Well, everyone knows now that Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee won their respective party caucuses in Iowa yesterday. The media coverage, in fact, has already moved on to speculation about next week’s New Hampshire primary and the evolving strategies of the top contenders. There is obviously a long way to go in this race and no […]

Culture and elections

Kenya has erupted into violence after a disputed election. The Pakistani political party of Benazir Bhutto has named her 19-year-old son as the party’s new leader.  This post is not meant to judge the politics of other countries. After all, the U.S. faced some problems of its own with a hotly disputed election seven years ago and, as Andrew Sullivan notes, we’re […]

Tribalism and democracy in Kenya

Tribalism is an inescapable undercurrent of life throughout much of Africa and the Middle East. And, as this Washington Post article notes, one’s tribal loyalties have also played a significant role in democratic elections in Kenya, even though many voters deny it is an issue. Although many issues are at stake in Kenya’s presidential election Thursday […]

Nomadic traditions influence politics

It’s easy to dismiss ancient nomadic traditions as quaint relics of the past. But researchers are now discovering that these tribal traditions are not only the building blocks of Central Asian cultures but are also representative of values that continue to influence contemporary politics. Some of these insights were discussed in a recent article in the International […]

Diplomacy and culture

In the most recent edition of Newsweek, there is a story about Ryan Crocker, the new U.S. ambassador to Baghdad. In the middle of the article are some excerpts which indicate that Crocker takes the role of culture seriously and that he goes out of his way to learn about the country he is working […]

Culture and democracy in Bhutan

It’s easy in the West for us to assume the democracy is a natural state of government, or at least something that people in every country long for. That’s why I was intrigued by an article about Bhutan in the International Herald Tribune. It seems that the king of Bhutan has decided his Himalayan country is ready […]

Somalia and Somaliland

There is a fascinating article in yesterday’s NY Times about the differences between Somalia and Somaliland, which shows some of the ways in which culture and history can influence societies. If you’ve never heard of Somaliland, don’t worry. It’s likely that many people have never heard of the place, since no one recognizes it a country even though it declared […]

The challenges posed by clans and tribalism

I’ve previously written about clans and tribalism as it relates to Iraq and the Middle East.  But this cultural topic is of course also an issue in other regions of the world, as shown by this recent article about Somalia. … whether Somalia pulls itself together now or explodes into bloodshed again depends not on American […]

The tribal culture of Iraq

There are many people who would have us believe that the challenges of Iraq are all about politics and terrorism.  And, of course, those obstacles are very real and are difficult enough to overcome.  But the hurdles involved in putting that country back together actually go much deeper, since a solution to the Iraqi quagmire isn’t really possible without taking into account […]

Honor and tribalism in the Middle East

Anyone who is interested in knowing how culture influences the conflicts in the Middle East would enjoy an op-ed piece by John Tierney in yesterday’s New York Times .  Tierney describes the importance of honor in that region of the world and how it can affect everything from tribal and family loyalties to communication styles. In the […]

Mysticism and politics in Indonesia

When I was in Bali a few years ago, I had an opportunity to see firsthand the role that spirituality plays in the everyday life of Indonesians.  For many people, this spirituality goes beyond mere organized religion and extends to a strong belief in the powers of the non-physical world. Now those beliefs have become a political issue, […]

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