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Sherene Seikaly


Editor’s Note: Arab Studies Journal, Spring 2016

Arab Studies Journal VOL. XXIV, No.1 Editor’s Note The Arab world and the broader Middle East offer profound lessons on the inextricability of knowledge and power. In the midst of civil war, foreign intervention, and ongoing occupation, those of us who study the Middle East or call it home confront two realities at once. On the one hand are the conditions of everyday life that range from the constrained to the unbearable. On the other are the increasingly confined ...

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New Texts Out Now: Sherene Seikaly, Men of Capital: Scarcity and Economy in Mandate Palestine

[Cover of Sherene Seikaly,

Sherene Seikaly, Men of Capital: Scarcity and Economy in Mandate Palestine. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015. Jadaliyya (J): What made you write this book? Sherene Seikaly (SS): When I started my dissertation research I was interested in looking at Palestinian consumer practices in Israel as a form of truncated citizenship and contained social mobility after 1948. Such a project appeared to entail more focus on Israeli institutions and state structures than ...

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Palestine as Archive


A man and his young son sit on two cement blocks, surrounded by piles of rubble that were once their home, on the edges of what was once their street. Their postures mirror one another. With thin arms dangling over knobby knees, fingers clasped, and eyes downcast, they survey the losses. They ponder the next step. It was 16 July, eight days after the Israeli military commenced its onslaught on the Gaza Strip. This image, like many, would circulate through multiple venues ...

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السيسي رجلنا

[نجار في حي العابدين في القاهرة يشيد بعبد الفتاح السيسي .تصوير شيرين صيقلي]

على مدار اليومين المقبلين سينزل بعض المصريين إلى الشوارع في تعبير انتخابي فارغ عن الإرادة الوطنية. سوف "يختارون" بين حاكم مصر الحالي ورئيسها المقبل، المشير السابق عبد الفتاح السيسي، ومنافسه غير المقنع، حمدين صباحي. بعضهم سينزل إلى الشوارع ليصوّت لـ "بشرة خير": السيسي ولا أحد غيره. وفي ظل التدمير المتواصل والعنيف لأي مشهد سياسي، سيعتكف البعض الآخر في منازلهم. مهما اختاروا أن يفعلوا في اليومين القادمين، فإن غالبية المصريين قد اختبروا نوعاً جديداً من ...

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Our Man, Sisi

[Banner endorsing presidential candidate Abdel Fattah al-Sisi reads: Long Live Egypt. Photo by Sherene Seikaly]

For the next two days, some Egyptians will take to the streets to perform yet another hollow electoral rendition of national will. They will “choose” between Egypt’s present ruler and soon to be president, former Field Marshall Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and his unconvincing opponent, Hamdeen Sabahi. Some will take to the streets to vote for the “good omen”: “Sisi and only Sisi.” In the face of the ongoing and violent destruction of politics, others will take shelter at home or ...

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Commemorating Janet Abu-Lughod

[Janet Abu-Lughod. Image courtesy of Deena Abu-Lughod.]

The year 2013 was one of deep loss. One of the most profound of these was the death of the path-breaking and prolific sociologist, demographer, and urbanist Janet Abu-Lughod. Her passing is painful, but as a thinker, writer, researcher, scholar, woman and activist, the model she offered remains very much alive. Born in 1928 and trained at the University of Chicago, Professor Abu-Lughod leaves behind a formidable legacy of intellectual production generated from unstinting ...

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Gender and the People in Revolutionary Times

[“Down with the Murshid’s Rule.

For decades, the "people" and the very possibility of politics in the Arab world have been objects of despair. Proclaiming the extinction of the Arab people’s capacity for politics and their acquiescence to a seemingly impermeable authoritarian state system had become conventional wisdom. The “Arab street,” activists seemed too comfortable professing, had failed to realize its historical promise. The inevitable march into history seemed eternally postponed or, ...

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The Meaning of Revolution: On Samira Ibrahim

[Graffiti of Samira Ibrahim and Khaled Sa‘id on Mohamed Mahmoud Street. Photo by Sherene Seikaly]

At that thin membrane, the hymen, narratives unfold and lives are determined. There, the binaries of the clean and the stained, the righteous and the debauched, the honorable and the shamed flourish. There the blurry border between the civilized and the backward, the liberated and the oppressed, the East and the West, pretends to lie. There the claims to flesh as an evidentiary terrain stand. For the last year and a half, one woman has chipped away at this edifice erected ...

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عدّ الكالوريات وصناعة الليمونادا في غزة

[أحد انفاق رفح، 2009، تصوير زوريا]

تعتبر السعرة الحرارية مقياساً ضرورياً في عملية الرقابة – الذاتية التي نفرضها على أجسادنا. وكما أظهرت وثيقة قامت الحكومة الإسرائيلية بإصدارها مؤخراً، فالسعرة تشكّل أيضاً أداة حكم. وكانت مؤسسة حقوق الإنسان الإسرائيلية "جيشا"، قد تمكّنت بعد معركة قانونية استمرت لمدة سنتين، من الحصول على هذه الوثيقة التي تحمل عنوان "إستهلاك الطعام في قطاع غزة – خطوط حمراء".   الهوس بالقياس بعد اعتلاء حماس سدّة الحكم في غزة في أيلول عام 2007، فرضت الحكومة ...

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Counting Calories and Making Lemonade in Gaza

[Rafah Tunnel, 2009. Image by Zoriah]

The calorie is a crucial measurement in our self-imposed scrutiny of the body. As a recently released Israeli government document shows, it is also an instrument of rule. After a two-year legal battle, the Israeli human rights organization Gisha has secured the release of “Food Consumption in the Gaza Strip — Red Lines.” Measurement obsession In September 2007, after Hamas took control of Gaza, the Israeli cabinet restricted the passage of goods, fuel, and people to and ...

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An Apocalyptic Air of Approaching Peril: Zionism at the United Nations

[Scene from I, Crocodile, by Fred Marcellino (Michael Di Capua Books, 1999)]

Bibi sauntered. He swaggered. He spoke freely, seemingly unguided by any text. He irreverently made circles with his fingers. He called the group of diplomats and interns assembled in front of him actors in “a theater of the absurd.” He proudly modeled his thick coat of indifference just as he called the United Nations, a “house of lies.” Indeed, so capable was the UN in presenting the false as true, Bibi gestured assuredly, they could go so far to declare ...

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At the Table: Sharif Waked's Khumus

[Sharif Waked, Khumus (2008). Image from artist's archive]

Just outside a Palestinian restaurant, named “al-Bayt” in the recently recognized village of Ayn Hawd southeast of Haifa, a table and two chairs stand precariously balanced on a steep slope. From a distance it is a pretty scene that promises the serenity of a picnic. On closer look, there is deformity and fragility. Together they offer an incisive reflection on those many moments when the Palestinian everyday in Israel meets the persistent apprehension and restlessness of ...

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To Stay Modern

BP WWII advertisement (company website)

On 4 August, after more than five million barrels of oil battered the Gulf of Mexico for over 100 days, BP proclaimed the success of its “static kill strategy.” Pumping the blown out well with mud and cement was working to stop what BP calls the “leak” or alternatively, “the Gulf of Mexico incident.” The company, its website explained, was “doing everything we can to make this right.” In the meantime, the environmental and economic devastation of the worst spill in US ...

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More than a stain

from Sopralluoghi in Palestina (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1963)

The Israeli Army’s recent killing of nine activists on the Gaza Flotilla has sparked a wave of contemplation on Israel’s morality. These questions are not new. Since the inception of the Zionist enterprise in the late nineteenth century, intellectuals such as Asher Ginsberg, known by his pen name Ahad Ha’am, fretted over how European Jews could realize their national project with the presence of a majority Palestinian population on the land they understood as ...

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Sherene Seikaly

Sherene Seikaly is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is the editor of the Arab Studies Journal, co-founder and co-editor of Jadaliyya e-zine, an editor of Journal of Palestine Studies, a policy member of Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network, and an advisory member of R-Shief Online Archive Project.  

Seikaly's Men of Capital: Scarcity and Economy in Mandate Palestine (Stanford University Press, 2016) explores how Palestinian capitalists and British colonial officials used economy to shape territory, nationalism, the home, and the body. She has published in academic journals such as International Journal of Middle East Studies and Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies as well as in online venues including Jadaliyya, Mada Masr, and 7iber.