Posted by: hobbesonafob | September 9, 2009

Choosing a Master’s Thesis – Mohamed Atta’s Thesis

My apologies for not posting during the past few weeks. I was dealing with exams and then followed those up with some road-tripping around southern Ontario. And, as of recently, I have grad school orientation sessions to attend.

I’ve been thinking about possible thesis topics, and an apropos article in Slate by Daniel Brook came up: http://www.slate.com/id/2227245/entry/2227246/

Essentially Brook’s article examines Mohamed Atta’s master’s thesis and how it relates to the attacks of 9/11. Atta’s thesis was in urban planning and its subject was on a

section of Aleppo, Syria’s second city. Atta describes decades of meddling by Western urban planners, who rammed highways through the neighborhood’s historic urban fabric and replaced many of its once ubiquitous courtyard houses with modernist high-rises. Atta calls for rebuilding the area along traditional lines, all tiny shops and odd-angled cul-de-sacs. The highways and high-rises are to be removed—in the meticulous color-coded maps, they are all slated for demolition. Traditional courtyard homes and market stalls are to be rebuilt.

Even the subtitle of his thesis is telling of Atta’s world paradigm:

The subtitle of the thesis is Neighborhood Development in an Islamic-Oriental City, and the use of that anachronistic term—Islamic-Oriental city—is telling. The term denotes a concept rooted in 19th-century European Orientalism, according to which Islamic civilization and Western civilization are entirely distinct and opposite: The dynamic, rational West gallops toward the future while the backward East remains cut off from foreign influence, exclusively defined by Islam, and frozen in time. In his academic work, Atta takes the Orientalist conceit of two distinct civilizations, one superior, the other inferior, and simply flips the chauvinism from pro-Western to pro-Muslim.

All and all, Brook’s article makes for an interesting read.

And now I’m off to what I’m assuming will be an enthralling library orientation.

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