The Middle East and Brazil Perspectives on the New Global South By Paul Amar, ed. (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2014. 355 pages.)

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Philipp Bruckmayr



The title at hand is a valuable and timely edited volume that sheds light on
the economic, political, literary, social, cultural, religious, and historical connections
between Brazil and the Middle East. Whereas the Middle East in this
respect primarily means the area historically referred to as bilād al-shām (i.e.,
Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Israel), the book also tackles the historical
linkages among Brazil, Muslim Andalusia, and West Africa. Structurally,
the volume is divided into three parts, which are preceded by an
introduction by the editor.
Part 1, “South-South Relations, Security Politics, Diplomatic History,”
includes five papers, the first four of which are more or less straightforward
treatments of political history/science. Paul Amar sketches the dynamic strategic
changes in policy toward the region and hegemonic American power during
the early presidency of Dilma Rousseff (2010-13) in the face of major
changes in the Middle East that rendered her continuation of the “handshake
politics” that her predecessor Lula had extended toward the now-crumbling
dictatorial regimes unfeasible. In the following chapter, Paulo Daniel Elias
Farah discusses one of the fruits of Lula’s endeavors: the formation of the
Summit of South America-Arab States in 2003. He situates this diplomatic
concord within a long history of contacts between Brazil and the Arab/Muslim
world as well as the transnational flows of forced and free migration, as epitomized
by the presence of enslaved West African Muslims and then, later on,
Syro-Lebanese settlers in Brazil.
Carlos Ribeiro Santana’s contribution sheds light on Brazil’s pragmatism
in fostering relationships with the Middle East to secure its oil supplies against
the background of the energy crises of the 1970s. This thread is also picked
up in the following paper by Monique Sochaczweski, which details how these
very configurations caused Brazil to abandon its “equidistance” policy ...

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