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Introduction: Remembering Barbara Harlow

[Barbara Harlow speaking in 2012. Image via YouTube.]

In the opening pages of her 1996 book After Lives: Legacies of Revolutionary Writing, a book that focuses on Ghassan Kanafani, Roque Dalton, and Ruth First—all of them revolutionary writers, all of them assassinated—Barbara Harlow notes that all three of these writers were also “committed critics…at a time and place when criticism and commitment often challenged each other’s practices.” She goes on to suggest that “in their own work, as in their persistent example,” such writers “continue to give critical dissent a good name.”[1] These very words apply beautifully to Barbara Harlow herself, the model of a committed critic, whose work and whose “persistent example” ...

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Generations of Resistance

[Barbara Harlow. Image by Tarek El-Ariss.]

Barbara would understand that the task of remembering her is harder without a cat curled on my lap, perched on the desk, or emanating a spirit of companionship from somewhere in the house. "Scratches to the cats" was Barbara's sign-off to me on email exchanges. When she said no—shockingly, if rightly—to my first request that she supervise my dissertation, Barbara sent me home with the advice to crawl into bed with my two cats and to come back with a revised prospectus for her to reconsider. My dissertation cat died last week, just shy of twenty years since the day I brought her home from the shelter in Austin. I'm feeling all over again, if more intimately and ...

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Barbara Harlow and the Necessity of ‘Renewed Histories of the Future’

[Mural of Ghassan Kanafani at the entrance to Bethlehem. Image via arablit.org.]

[Editors’ Note: This essay will appear in Volume 13:3 of the Journal of Middle Eastern Women’s Studies, a themed issue on the gender and sexuality of borders and margins, in November 2017. It was first posted on the JMEWS website, and is reposted here with permission of the author and the journal’s editors.] Barbara Harlow’s commitment to struggles for liberation and justice was always at the same time a commitment to academic inquiry. She entwined them and located emancipatory potential in each even as both were subject to her criticism. She emphasized the contradictions and debates within these projects as generative of what she called “renewed histories of the ...

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Art and Liberty: Redefining the Canon or the Next Record Sales?

[​Abdel Hadi El Gazzar,

In October 2016, two exhibitions were inaugurated in Cairo and Paris respectively, commemorating an Egyptian surrealist art and literature group, Art et Liberté.  I. Art et Liberté was co-founded by surrealist author Georges Henein in 1939. At the advent of World War II, artists and writers rallied around Henein and painter and writer Ramses Younan in their call for a perpetual revolution in art. The group aimed at gearing public opinion in Egypt away from the notion of modernization—regarded as a product of western imperialism—towards that of modernity, which saw art and daily life as malleable in their constant potential for improvement, “dans la mêlée,” as ...

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Between the World and Algeria: International Histories of the Algerian War of Independence

Darcie Fontaine, Decolonizing Christianity: Religion and the End of Empire in France and Algeria. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. Jennifer Johnson, The Battle of Algeria: Sovereignty, Health Care, and Humanitarianism. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016. Jeffrey James Byrne, Mecca of Revolution: Algeria, Decolonization, and the Third World Order. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016. [This review essay was first published in the Spring 2017 issue of the Arab Studies Journal. For more information or to subscribe, click here.]  The history of Algeria is undergoing a boom, especially the history of what ...

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Revisiting ‘Foucault in Iran’: A Response

[Cover of Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi, Foucault in Iran: Islamic Revolution after the Enlightenment]

Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi, Foucault in Iran: Islamic Revolution after the Enlightenment. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016. [This is the final installment of a book symposium on Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi's Foucault in Iran: Islamic Revolution after the Enlightenment, consisting of six reviews and a response by the author. The symposium was originally published by The SCTIW Review, and is reposted here with their permission.] First, I would like to thank SCTIW Review for organizing this symposium. It is a great privilege to read such a comprehensive scrutiny of one’s own work. I know how time consuming this kind of critical engagement with a text is and ...

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A Letter to Foucault: Selectively Narrating the Stories of Secular Iranian Feminists

[Cover of Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi, Foucault in Iran: Islamic Revolution after the Enlightenment]

Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi, Foucault in Iran: Islamic Revolution after the Enlightenment. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016. [This is part six of a book symposium on Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi's Foucault in Iran: Islamic Revolution after the Enlightenment, consisting of six reviews and a response by the author. The symposium was originally published by The SCTIW Review, and is reposted here with their permission.] Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi’s Foucault in Iran builds a chapter-by-chapter defense against critics skeptical of Foucault’s engagement with the Iranian Revolution of 1979. But the pit stop the author takes in the fourth chapter linking Iran’s women’s ...

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Foucault’s Folly: Iran, Political Spirituality, and Counter-Conduct

[Cover of Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi, Foucault in Iran: Islamic Revolution after the Enlightenment]

Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi, Foucault in Iran: Islamic Revolution after the Enlightenment. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016. [This is part four of a book symposium on Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi's Foucault in Iran: Islamic Revolution after the Enlightenment, consisting of six reviews and a response by the author. The symposium was originally published by The SCTIW Review, and is reposted here with their permission.] Foucault’s folly! That, of course, is the common indictment against Foucault’s trips to Iran in late September and again in early November of 1978 and the “reportage of ideas” that he produced about the revolution that was then taking place there. ...

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Rescuing the Revolution from Its Outcome

[Cover of Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi,

Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi, Foucault in Iran: Islamic Revolution after the Enlightenment. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016. [This is part two of a book symposium on Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi's Foucault in Iran: Islamic Revolution after the Enlightenment, consisting of six reviews and a response by the author. The symposium was originally published by The SCTIW Review, and is reposted here with their permission.] Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi’s Foucault in Iran: Islamic Revolution after the Enlightenment is an exemplary book in a number of ways, but perhaps first and foremost because of what the book does not do. While it represents the most extensive and ...

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Straight Lines

[Le Corbusier's Palace of Justice, Chandigarh (1952-55). Image via Wikimedia Commons.]

Living Cities, Tate Modern. Barjeel Art Foundation Collection: Imperfect Chronology – Mapping the Contemporary II, Whitechapel Gallery, 23 August 2016 – 8 January 2017 Gideon Mendel: Dzhangal, Rivington Palace, 6 January - 11 February 2017   In a corner of the Living Cities display, at Tate Modern’s Switch House, hangs a photograph of the Swiss-French architect, writer, and civic planner, Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, better known as Le Corbusier. The modernist—dressed in a heavy black coat and bowtie, sporting his characteristic thick black-rimmed glasses, eyebrows raised slightly and brow furrowed—seems to be in the middle of a conversation, poised to answer ...

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Power, Sect, and State in Syria

A. Maria A. Kastrinou, Power, Sect and State in Syria: The Politics of Marriage and Identity amongst the Druze. London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 2016. How has Syria, a country that was deemed “stable” by analysts only years ago, become engulfed in an utterly brutal war? Under what circumstances does intercommunal cohesion turn into sectarian strife? Focusing on the fine line between violence and intimacy in a variety of different settings in pre-war Syria, Maria Kastrinou’s Power, Sect and State in Syria addresses these questions through a multifaceted ethnographic study of Syria’s Druze community, juxtaposed with an in-depth analysis of how the pre-war Syrian ...

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De l’impuissance des citoyens libanais face au système. "Powerless," les ambiguïtés d'un documentaire

[Le Robin des bois de l'électricité dans le film Powerless. Crédit : Road 2 Films]

Compte rendu: Powerless ('Indama ya’ti al-zhalam), documentaire réalisé par Cynthia Choucair (2012) (arabe, sous titré en anglais) La fin de l’année 2016 a été porteuse de nombreuses déceptions pour les militants libanais qui luttent pour la préservation du littoral et son accès libre à tous les publics, avec la construction d’un complexe touristique sur une partie de la plage de Ramlet el-Bayda à Beyrouth. De même, la (ré)ouverture de décharges sur la mer à Borj Hammoud et à Costa Brava, sur deux autres tronçons déjà dégradés du littoral de l’agglomération de la capitale libanaise, en principe temporaire, n’en signale pas moins l’échec des ...

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Barbara Harlow: The Formative Egyptian Period

In her late twenties, she arrived in Egypt of the late 1970s looking like a teenager who lost her way and ended up in teeming Cairo. Doris Shoukri, then chair of the department of English and Comparative Literature (ECLT) at the American University in Cairo (AUC), had interviewed her in Berlin in 1977 for her first teaching position as an assistant professor. Doris recalls Barbara, looking like a twelve-year-old blond waif with flowers in her hands. The animated discussion that followed at dinner ...

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Poetry and Partition: Barbara Harlow’s Insistence on the ‘Here-and-Now’ of Historical Reality

Barbara Harlow held a visiting position at the National University of Ireland in Galway in the spring of 1992. That same year, she published an essay in Polygraph titled “Drawing the Line: Cultural Politics and the Legacy of Partition,” which offered comparative readings of literature across three colonial contexts: Ireland, India, and Palestine.[1] During the fall semester, upon her return from Ireland to the University of Texas, Austin, where she had been employed since 1985, she taught an English ...

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The Occupation of Literature and Books That Are Difficult to Get

When I was one of Barbara Harlow’s beginning PhD students in Ethnic and Third World Literatures at the University of Texas at Austin, I had the temerity one day to ask her in her office how she justified sitting behind a desk, reading and writing, when she was so acutely aware of all the terrible things going on in this world, was so attuned to the “imperative to take sides,” as she would insist on any number of occasions. “We can’t afford to give up any space,” was her very quick reply, through her wry ...

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Arabian Tragedy, or Noir?

The first page of the preface to Farah Al-Nakib’s Kuwait Transformed: A History of Oil and Urban Life (Stanford University Press, 2016) begins with the author sitting in a community garden in Kuwait. She is chatting with one Maryam, who is explaining the garden’s origins by recalling that some years ago she wondered to herself that something was missing in this city she lived in. In stark contrast to the preface’s rather bucolic and ponderous mood, the book’s introduction begins very differently. It ...

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Making History in Iran: Education, Nationalism, and Print Culture

Farzin Vejdani, Making History in Iran: Education, Nationalism, and Print Culture. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2014. [This review was first published in the Spring 2017 issue of the Arab Studies Journal. For more information or to subscribe, click here.] Making History in Iran is a much-needed examination of how various social and institutional changes during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries shaped how the people of Iran wrote about, taught, and understood the past. ...

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The Origins of the Lebanese National Idea, 1840-1920

Carol Hakim, The Origins of the Lebanese National Idea, 1840–1920. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013. [This review was orginally published in the Spring 2017 issue of the Arab Studies Journal. For more information on the issue, or to subscribe to ASJ, click here.] Against teleological accounts that locate the origins of national ideas in a distant past and trace their evolution along a linear path into the present, Carol Hakim’s Origins of the Lebanese National Idea cautiously ...

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Foucault, the Iranian Revolution, and the Politics of Collective Action

Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi, Foucault in Iran: Islamic Revolution after the Enlightenment. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016. [This is part five of a book symposium on Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi's Foucault in Iran: Islamic Revolution after the Enlightenment, consisting of six reviews and a response by the author. The symposium was originally published by The SCTIW Review, and is reposted here with their permission.] In Foucault in Iran: Islamic Revolution after the Enlightenment Behrooz ...

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Foucault: Against the Ideology of Enlightenment

Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi, Foucault in Iran: Islamic Revolution after the Enlightenment. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016. [This is part three of a book symposium on Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi's Foucault in Iran: Islamic Revolution after the Enlightenment, consisting of six reviews and a response by the author. The symposium was originally published by The SCTIW Review, and is reposted here with their permission.] At various points throughout Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi’s excellent account of ...

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Foucault and Iran

Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi, Foucault in Iran: Islamic Revolution after the Enlightenment. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016. [This is part one of a book symposium on Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi's Foucault in Iran: Islamic Revolution after the Enlightenment, consisting of six reviews and a response by the author. The symposium was originally published by The SCTIW Review, and is reposted here with their permission.] In his remarkable book, Foucault in Iran: Islamic Revolution after the ...

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Critical Readings in Political Economy: Apartheid

Andy Clarno, Neoliberal Apartheid (University of Chicago Press, 2017). In some of the earliest editions of Al-Hadaf, the journal of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, there is explicit mention of the myriad similarities between the “racist, settler colonial regimes” occupying the antipodes of Africa and the crossroads of the Levant. The Popular Front in theory and practice understood their struggle as linked to that of the South African liberation movement. It is against that rich ...

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Critical Readings in Political Economy: Mechanisms of Imperialism

Utsa Patnaik and Prabhat Patnaik, A Theory of Imperialism (Columbia University Press: 2016). Exactly 70 years ago, Hubert Humphrey stated, “If you are looking for a way to get people to lean on you and to be dependent on you, in terms of their co-operation with you, it seems to me that food dependence would be terrific.” Humphrey expressed something simple: the centrality of food production to dependence and independence, sovereignty and servitude. Of course, the United States and other temperate ...

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The Space of Revolt: An Investigation into the Urban Geography of the Arab Spring

Book review: Deen Sharp and Claire Panetta (eds.) Beyond the Square. Urbanism and the Arab Uprisings. New York: Terreform/Urban Research, 2016. Beyond the square. Urbanism and the Arab Uprisings aims to analyze the dialectic relations between political change and urbanization. Based on investigations carried out in the Arab world and the Middle East, it shows the very strong urban dimension of the uprisings that have occurred since 2010, in which cities were simultaneously the main scene of events, ...

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