Most readers picking up a 723-page book titled The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Middle Eastern and North African History will expect a rigorous and systematic survey of developments in the region since the late 1970s from Morocco to Afghanistan, from Turkey to Sudan. If that happens to be your expectation, dear reader, skip this volume.
Ghazal of Simon Fraser University and Hanssen of the University of Toronto have patched together a nearly random collection of thirty-three essays. For starters, the first fifteen predate the late 1970s. Sure, history needs background, but a chapter on "Fiscal Crisis and Structural Change in the Late Ottoman Economy" seems awfully remote from contemporary issues. "A War over the People: The Algerian War of Independence, 1954-1962" is only half so distant chronologically, but, surely, it could have been incorporated in the chapter on contemporary Algeria. But wait, there is no chapter on contemporary Algeria.
"Counterterrorism and Counterinsurgency in the Neoliberal Age" disappoints no less than its title suggests it will. One excerpt: "Knowledge production and the incorporation of colonial knowledge into apparatuses of waging war would also be significant facets of liberal counterinsurgencies."
Marshall McLuhan is mentioned once and Michel Foucault twice, but Turgut Özal is entirely absent from those 723 pages, as is the entire Barzani clan.
Worse yet, the reader's faith in the editors' authority will probably not survive the very first paragraph of the book where they mellifluously announce that "at the beginning of the second millennium of the common era, millions of people have taken to the streets to bring down regimes that are gutting social welfare provisions and plundering the environmental and human resources in their countries." All that was taking place around 1010 A.D.? Or did they get their millennia wrong?
In short, The Oxford Handbook is just as eccentric, politicized, and uninformative as one would expect from a compendium dated 2021.