Tutor profile: Ted S.
How should I structure my paragraphs when writing an essay?
It's good to start with a sentence that answers the question of the essay, while summing up the point you are making in the paragraph that follows it. This introductory sentence should be followed by a concrete example (or examples if you are are making a more complex point) that proves what you are trying to argue in the paragraph. You then need to explain this example (or examples), and make it obvious why you have used it to prove the point of this paragraph, and show how it answers the essay question. Ideally you should finish you paragraph with a sentence that both concludes the argument you have just made, and creates a link to the next point you are going to make.
Subject: European History
How influential was the discourse of self-determination on Central and Eastern Europe following the First World War?
The discourse of national self-determination significantly influenced the post-war order of Central and Eastern Europe, following the collapse of the Russian, Austro-Hungarian, and German empires. Contrary to much of the historiography of national self-determination, Borislav Chernev argues that it was not Woodrow Wilson, but Vladimir Lenin who first promoted the idea of national self-determination, making it a vital component of Bolshevik foreign policy following the February Revolution. The Bolsheviks made national self-determination a central feature of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty of 1918, presenting it as the sole path to peace between Germany, Austro-Hungary and Russia on the Eastern Front. Thereafter, the principle of self-determination became imbedded in Allied foreign policy, with Woodrow Wilson championing the idea in his influential Fourteen Points, and David Lloyd George stating that ‘government with the consent of the governed’ was the only way to settle territorial disputes in Europe. This had a profound influence on nation building, as the discourse of self-determination played a vital role in Paris Peace conference of 1919, which negotiated the borders of the new nation-states that replaced the fallen empires. The territory, and the ethnic make-up of these new nation-states however, was not only dictated by self-determination, but also by the nature of pre-existing national movements, the strategic aims of the Allies, and the military actions of national movements.
How did Saba Mahmood challenge the way agency was conceptualised?
Saba Mahmood’s 2001 intervention (Feminist Theory, Embodiment, and the Docile Agent), challenged the notion of agency being situated within a binary of resistance and subordination, making a significant contribution to feminist studies, and anthropology of the Middle East. It was made in the context of feminist and postcolonial responses to the colonialist male gaze of some Middle Eastern anthropology, that theorised agency as a ‘synonym for resistance’ and relied on an assumption that desires for freedom and emancipation were universal and dictated women’s actions, whether consciously or unconsciously. Mahmood demonstrated the inadequacy of this framework of analysis, by showing how it could not comprehend the agency of women within the Egyptian mosque movement, who she argues showed agency through developing a pious self. Mahmood posited that agency must be viewed in the particular context in which it arises, and that it is enabled by structures of power. Her work, while convincing and influential, engendered the “piety turn”, which some argue led to the privileging of Islam over other motivations and discourses that inform agency and subjectivity. Furthermore others, such as Aitemad Muhanna, have critiqued Mahmood’s failure to recognise that morals ‘religious or not’, are not ‘fixed’ but are specific to socio-economic structures, and historical and cultural discourses, arguing for a more nuanced intersectional analysis of agency.
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