What We Are Reading Today: Empires of the Weak by J. C. Sharman

Updated 19 January 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Empires of the Weak by J. C. Sharman

  • New book demonstrates that the rise of the West was an exception in the prevailing world order.

What accounts for the rise of the state, the creation of the first global system, and the dominance of the West? The conventional answer asserts that superior technology, tactics, and institutions forged by Darwinian military competition gave Europeans a decisive advantage in war over other civilizations. 

In contrast, Empires of the Weak argues that Europeans actually had no general military superiority in the early modern era. J.C. Sharman shows instead that European expansion from the late 15th to the late 18th centuries is better explained by deference to strong Asian and African polities, diseases in the Americas, and maritime supremacy earned by default because local land-oriented polities were largely indifferent to war and trade at sea. Europeans were overawed by the mighty Eastern empires of the day, says a review on the Princeton University Press website. 

Bringing a revisionist perspective to the idea that Europe ruled the world due to military dominance, Empires of the Weak demonstrates that the rise of the West was an exception in the prevailing world order.


Contemporary Emirati artist Ebtisam Abdulaziz mixes maths with art

'Plates numbers Sharjah to Abu Dhabi' by Ebtisam Abdulaziz. (Supplied)
Updated 17 November 2019

Contemporary Emirati artist Ebtisam Abdulaziz mixes maths with art

  • Contemporary Emirati artist Ebtisam Abdulaziz is set to unveil her latest mathematics-inspired piece for the UAE’s Al-Burda Endowment exhibition
  • The Al-Burda Endowment exhibition will showcase the work of 10 selected artists awarded the grant in 2018

DUBAI: Contemporary Emirati artist Ebtisam Abdulaziz is set to unveil her latest mathematics-inspired piece for the UAE’s Al-Burda Endowment exhibition — organized by the UAE Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development — on Nov. 21.

Abdulaziz, who often explores issues of identity and culture through her work, spoke to Arab News about her latest project and her path toward becoming an artist.

“Unfortunately, when I finished high school, I couldn’t get the chance to study art since there were no art colleges in the UAE. I decided to get a degree in mathematics because it is an interesting subject to me, as I believe art and maths are connected with each other,” the artist, whose work was exhibited as part of the UAE Pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale, said.

Abdulaziz, who often explores issues of identity and culture through her work, spoke to Arab News about her latest project and her path toward becoming an artist. Supplied

In 1999, she kicked off a career in the arts and hasn’t looked back since. The artist works in a variety of mediums, including installations, performance pieces and works on paper, all of which explore “human nature, culture, religion… and the workings of the human brain,” according to the artist.

“There is a connection between art and maths,” she added, explaining the link between her two passions. “I merged the two parts of my brain to get ideas and (build on this) mixture between art and maths.”

 The Al-Burda Endowment exhibition will showcase the work of 10 selected artists awarded the grant in 2018 and Abdulaziz is particularly excited about her new piece.

The artist works in a variety of mediums, including installations, performance pieces and works on paper. Supplied

“My piece for Al-Burda is a dream come true. I had this idea of making a huge installation work that involves maths, geometry and Islamic patterns. The idea… started from just a sketch… to a big acrylic painting on canvas and now it has become a 3-D work.”

The optical illusion-style work is almost trippy to look at due to its accordion-style surface and multitude of bright, block-printed colors and that boldness is also visible in her advice to budding Emirati artists.

“My advice to them is to go for it, think big, go crazy with your art. It is who you are, it is your way to express yourself,” she said.