Khaldoun Samman took his undergraduate studies at George Washington University in Washington D.C. and received his PhD in Sociology from the State University of New York at Binghamton. He joined the Macalester college sociology department in 2002. Professor Samman teaches the department’s Social Theory course, Islam and the West, The Politics of Fear, Secularism and Its Discontents, as well as a range of classes on social problems and social inequalities.
Professor Samman’s latest book, Clash of Modernities: The Islamist Challenge to Jewish, Turkish and Arab Nationalism was released in December 2010. This book argues that to understand the Middle East we must also understand how the West produced a temporal narrative of world history in which westerners placed themselves on top and all others below them. In the attempt to reinterpret Middle Eastern history, this book shows how Arabs, Muslims, Turks, and Jews absorbed, revised, yet remained loyal to this Western vision. Turkish Kemalism and Israeli Zionism, in their efforts to push their people forward, accepted the narrative almost wholeheartedly, eradicating what they perceived as “archaic” characteristics of their Jewish and Turkish cultures. Arab nationalists negotiated a more culturally schizophrenic approach to appeasing the colonizer’s gaze. But so too, Samman argues, did the Islamists who likewise wanted to improve their societies. But in order to modernize, Islamists prescribed the eradication of Western contamination and reintroduced the prophetic stage that they believe—if the colonizer and their local Arab coconspirators hadn’t intervened—would have produced true civilization. Samman’s account explains why Islamists broke more radically with the colonizer’s insult. For all these nationalists gender would be used as the measuring device of how well they did in relation to the colonizer’s gaze.
In his 2007 book, Cities of God and Nationalism: Mecca, Jerusalem, and Rome as Contested World Cities (2007), Samman tackles the controversial thesis that modernity, far from bringing in an age of tolerance, creates the social basis of exclusion. The central thesis of the book is that our real problem is the rigid conceptions of national spaces and peoples that have recently been forced up on theses scared spaces. The book uses three major sacred cities to explore how modernity, through apparatus of nationalism and the nation-state, redefined our constructs of self and other in fundamental ways, having major implications for the way Rome, Mecca, and Jerusalem are conceived by the inhabitants of the world who identify with them.