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Christa Salamandra

Syria’s Leopard (Part 2)

[Explosions from the war in Syria can be seen from a hill on the Golan Heights: Image from]

Maleh's relationship with the Syrian authorities deteriorated after Fragments, which the director sees as the end of an era in his professional life. A pivotal incident occurred on his birthday in September 1981. As the filmmaker drove by the Foreign Ministry, a guard signaled him to pull over and let an official car pass. The director stopped, but apparently not quickly enough, for the guard beat him on the head with a rifle butt. Maleh passed out and woke to the voice of ...

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Syria’s Leopard (Part 1)

[Windy road around Syrian hillside: Image from]

Syrian filmmaker Nabil Maleh epitomizes the figure of the artist-activist, the socially committed and politically engaged cultural producer. Over decades of production and across genres, his work has challenged artistic, cultural, and political regimes. Maleh often cites a defining moment of childhood resistance: the seven-year-old Nabil confronted a soldier who tried to keep him off a public park swing so that military officers' children could have free rein. In return for ...

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Reflections on Not Writing about the Syrian Conflict

[A civilian looks at a destroyed home in Aleppo, Syria, Thursday, 3 January 2014. The area is immersed in a Syrian civil war that the United Nations estimates has killed more than 60,000 people since the revolt against President Bashar Assad began in March 2011. AP Photo/Andoni Lubaki]

Friends and colleagues often ask if I am busy responding to Syria’s three-year revolution-turned-civil war, given that I have spent much of my career researching and writing about social and cultural life in Damascus. I reply with guilt-tinged evasion. This “expert’s” reluctance to intervene mystifies and disappoints them. Seemingly suspecting a lack of initiative, they suggest I compose op-eds and offer media contacts. I demur and change the subject, but I know I am not ...

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Prelude to an Uprising: Syrian Fictional Television and Socio-Political Critique

[A graffiti artists tags a wall with the phrase

As antigovernment protests gripped Syria in 2011 and 2012, observers celebrate a new generation of activist artists and their innovative forms of creative dissent. The wall of fear that had long curtailed artistic expression has collapsed, they argue, with youthful satirists moving beyond the despair and complaisance of older cultural producers to flood the internet with caustic caricatures and enliven demonstrations with imaginative tactics. Articulated in the international ...

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Christa Salamandra

Christa Salamandra is Visiting Professor at The Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University, Sweden, and Associate Professor of Anthropology at Lehman College and the Graduate Center, The City University of New York. She is the author of A New Old Damascus: Authenticity and Distinction in Urban Syria (Indiana University Press, 2004), and numerous articles on visual media and urban culture in the Arab world. She is currently writing a book-length ethnography of Syrian television drama production. For more information, visit: