The Fertile Crescent is a crescent-shaped region containing the comparatively moist and fertile land of otherwise arid and semi-arid Western Asia, and the Nile Valley and Nile Delta of northeast Africa. The term was popularized by University of Chicago archaeologist James Henry Breasted. Having originated in the study of ancient history, the concept soon developed and today retains meanings in international geopolitics and diplomatic relations.
In current usage, the Fertile Crescent has a minimum extent and a maximum extent. All definitions include Mesopotamia, the land in and around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The modern-day countries with significant territory within the Fertile Crescent are Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, and Occupied Palestinian territories, besides the southeastern fringe of Turkey and the western fringe of Iran.
Cultural studies is an academic field of critical theory and literary criticism initially introduced by British academics in 1964 and subsequently adopted by allied academics throughout the world. Characteristically interdisciplinary, cultural studies is an academic discipline aiding cultural researchers who theorize about the forces from which the whole of humankind construct their daily lives. Cultural Studies is not a unified theory, but a diverse field of study encompassing many different approaches, methods and academic perspectives. Distinct from the breadth, objective and methodology of cultural anthropology and ethnic studies, cultural studies is focused upon the political dynamics of contemporary culture and its historical foundations, conflicts and defining traits. Researchers concentrate on how a particular medium or message relates to ideology, social class, nationality, ethnicity, sexuality and/or gender, rather than providing an encyclopedic identification, categorization or definition of a particular culture or area of the world.
Cultural studies combines feminist theory, social theory, political theory, history, philosophy, literary theory, media theory, film/video studies, communication studies, political economy, translation studies, museum studies and art history/criticism to study cultural phenomena in various societies. Thus, cultural studies seeks to understand how meaning is generated, disseminated, and produced from the social, political and economic spheres within a given culture. The influential theories of cultural hegemony and agency have emerged from the cultural studies movement as well as the most recent communications theory, which attempts to explain the cultural forces behind globalization. Unique academic approaches to cultural studies have also emerged in the United States, Canada, Australia, South Africa and Italy.
Western Asia, or Southwest Asia, are terms that describe the westernmost portion of Asia. The terms are partly coterminous with the Middle East, which describes a geographical position in relation to Western Europe rather than its location within Asia. Due to this perceived Eurocentrism, international organizations such as the United Nations, have replaced Middle East and Near East with Western Asia. This region and Europe are collectively referred to as Western Eurasia.
The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia (modern Iraq, southeast Turkey, northeastern Syria and Kuwait), ancient Egypt (although the majority of Egypt is geographically in North East Africa), ancient Iran (Elam, Media, Parthia and Persia), Anatolia/Asia Minor (modern Turkey and Armenia), the Levant (modern Syria, Lebanon, Israel, State of Palestine and Jordan), Malta and the Arabian Peninsula. The ancient Near East is studied in the fields of Near Eastern archaeology and ancient history. It begins with the rise of Sumer in the 4th millennium BC, though the date it ends varies: either covering the Bronze Age and the Iron Age in the region, until the conquest by the Achaemenid Empire in the 6th century BC or Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC.
The ancient Near East is considered the cradle of civilization. It was the first to practice intensive year-round agriculture, it gave the rest of the world the first writing system, invented the potter's wheel and then the vehicular- and mill wheel, created the first centralized governments, law codes and empires, as well as introducing social stratification, slavery and organized warfare, and it laid the foundation for the fields of astronomy and mathematics.
Sociocultural evolution(ism) is an umbrella term for theories of cultural evolution and social evolution, describing how cultures and societies have changed over time. Note that "sociocultural evolution" is not an equivalent of "sociocultural development" (unified processes of differentiation and integration involving increases in sociocultural complexity), as sociocultural evolution also encompasses sociocultural transformations accompanied by decreases of complexity (degeneration) as well as ones not accompanied by any significant changes of sociocultural complexity (cladogenesis). Thus, sociocultural evolution can be defined as "the process by which structural reorganization is affected through time, eventually producing a form or structure which is qualitatively different from the ancestral form."
Most 19th-century and some 20th-century approaches aimed to provide models for the evolution of humankind as a whole, arguing that different societies are at different stages of social development. The most comprehensive attempt to develop a general theory of social evolution centering on the development of socio-cultural systems was done by Talcott Parsons on a scale which included a theory of world-history. Another attempt both on a less systematic scale was attempted by World System approach.
Near East (French: Proche-Orient) is a geographical term that roughly encompasses Western Asia. Despite having varying definitions within different academic circles, the term was originally applied to the maximum extent of the Ottoman Empire, but has since been gradually replaced by the term Middle East.
The Encyclopædia Britannica defines the Near East as including Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, the Gaza Strip, Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the West Bank, and Yemen. The United Nations FAO defines the region similarly, but also includes Afghanistan while excluding the countries of North Africa and the Palestinian territories. According to National Geographic, the terms Near East and Middle East denote the same territories and are 'generally accepted as comprising the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, Cyprus, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestinian territories, Syria, and Turkey'.