Sunday, September 21, 2008

Harvard professor teaches "neo-tribalism" in Dubai


I recall an early episode of Donald Trump’s “Apprentice” based on the concept of negotiation. Remember what contestant Troy McClain had to give up as his part of the negotiation?

Seriously, as a business skill, “negotiation” goes international. Harvard law school faculty member Daniel Shapiro has taken the concept to the Middle East, specifically Dubai. The New York Times Magazine, on p. 80, today, Sunday September 21, has a story about him by Negar Azimi, “The College Issue: The Teaching Cure,” with a handsome picture of the Dubai skyline close up from the beach (but without the Burj in the picture), at this link. The focus on Shapiro’s seminars to teach western negotiating skills, almost as The Donald would see them, in the Arab world.

Dubai, from pictures, has always struck me as a city on another planet. Maybe one could say that about some cities in China now (beside Beijing). Try looking at “Dubai: Another World” here.

Dubai is supposed to set the example for modern Arabia. Far from perfect in terms of human rights, it still is supposed to be a firewall – successful capitalism -- against the nihilism of radical Islam in other parts of the Arab world, as documented in the film “Obsession” that I reviewed yesterday on my movies blog.

Ali al-Yousuf, president of the Dubai School and adviser to Sheik Mohammed, is quoted as saying, “We want to show the world that we Arabs can be successful without giving up our values or religion”.

Shapiro leads an interesting experiment in neo-tribalism. In the Arab world, we think of tribalism as a bad thing, associated with the lawless areas in Pakistan and harboring Osama bin Laden. We associate it with patriarchal family values. He builds an exercise where members of a seminar form new tribes, based on new sets of shared values within the larger group. He says that most people already belong to multiple tribes. Interesting. Remember, Troy made his psychic "pawn sacrifice" for the benefit of his newfound "tribe."

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