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Petrodollars and Academic Rigor

  • Monday, November 18, 2013

MESA 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana, came to a successful conclusion on October 13, 2013, thanks to the hard work of its staff and volunteers. http://www.mesa.arizona.edu/annual-meeting/index.html

As a publisher, I am always interested and curious to know what books are published by my competitors. While browsing through various new and recent titles, I came across a book published by E. J. Brill, which prides itself in having provided scholarly works for the past 330 yearshttp://www.brill.com/about/brill-330

     The title of the book is Atlas of the Gulf States, by Philippe Cadene (Universite Paris—Diderot) and Brigitte Dumortier (Universit? Paris—Sorbonne). For those graduate students and professors who have an extra $267.00 to spend on a 120-page book full of maps that are probably available on Google Earth, here is your opportunity. Not only is the title printed on the outside cover misleading, but once you open the book, you will be shocked to see the following words printed on the very first inside map in large bold letters: “Arabian-Persian Gulf.” Why the discrepancy, I asked?  Are we to believe what is printed on the cover or what is on the inside map?

     I felt that I needed to express my dismay by confronting Brill's representatives, a tall gentleman and his young, innocent-looking lady assistant. I asked him to explain why his publishing house had elected to print a nonexistent, fictitious name that is contrary to the internationally accepted name, the Persian Gulf. He protested at my remarks, but I suggested that E. J. Brill would better have an editorial policy that does not bend to pressure from those with petrodollars to spend. What other reason could there be for such misrepresentation, I asked?

     The gentleman responded even more strongly, but I reminded him again that Brill is only one of many university presses, centers for Middle Eastern studies, and independent publishers across the United States and Europe who in recent years has disseminated misinformation about the use of the name the Persian Gulf. I presented him with a copy of an official map of Saudi Arabia, circa 1952, to take back to the Netherlands to show his board of editors.http://www.mazdapublishers.com/images/upload/news/Map-of-the-Persian-Gulf.pdf

     I remember that during the MESA 2010 conference in San Diego, California, I had a similar disagreement with a woman publisher who works out of Boulder, Colorado. She bluntly told me that when she receives a manuscript from Iranian authors, she uses “Persian Gulf”; and should the authors come from some Arabic-speaking country, she uses “Arabian Gulf”; and if they reside in between, she simply uses “The Gulf.” 

     So, here is my question. Could it be that petrodollars are influencing publishers as well as various centers of Middle Eastern studies in the USA and across the Atlantic to please benefactors at the expense of academic rigor? How far is too far to bend in pursuit of positive publishing associations with our neighbors from different political perspectives? 

     As a responsible press, we here at Mazda Publishers are concerned about the future of truth and scholarship in the area of the Middle Eastern studies.


A. Kamron Jabbari, Ph.D.
Publisher

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