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A New Secularism?

[Cover of Mayanthi L. Fernando,

[This is the third of three responses to Muriam Haleh Davis’ review essay of books by Joan W. Scott, Naomi Davidson, and Mayanthi Fernando. For Joan W. Scott’s response, “More on Laïcité in Historical Context," click here; for Naomi Davidson’s response, “The Vagaries of Laïcité,” click here.] In bringing the work of Joan Scott and Naomi Davidson together with mine, Muriam Haleh Davis demonstrates the importance of undertaking a history of the present. This history enables us to identify some of the structuring logics of French republicanism and French secularism, as well as to track both continuities and discontinuities between past and present, something that ...

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Dead Sea Living

[Image by Intuitive Pictures]

Dead Sea Living, directed by German Gutierrez. Canada/France/Palestine, 2013. Although the Dead Sea has no life, it provides living through the rich minerals extracted from it. Yet the flood of water into the Dead Sea is slowly receding. It has witnessed a ninety-foot drop in only thirty years on a lake that is just sixty-seven kilometers long and twenty kilometers wide. At this rate, the Dead Sea will bottom out as a small pond in about fifty years. German Gutierrez’s film Dead Sea Living depicts the dying of the Dead Sea and its economic, environmental, social, and political implications. Gutrierrez is a Colombian film director currently based in Canada who has made ...

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‘A Distinctly French Universalism’: Translating Laïcité after Charlie

[The Grande Mosquée de Paris. Photo by Arthur Asseraf.]

Mayanthi L. Fernando, The Republic Unsettled: Muslim French and the Contradictions of Secularism. Durham: Duke University Press, 2014. Naomi Davidson. Only Muslim: Embodying Islam in Twentieth-Century France. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2012. Joan Wallach Scott. The Politics of the Veil. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007. It was impossible to avoid the discussion, despite my repeated protests. In Lyon, as in the rest of France, there was nothing else to talk about—especially when I found myself seated across from a colleague who teaches at an international lycée, the crucible of Republican education. He was visibly emotional as he said: “I told my ...

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Displaced Intentions

[Still image from

Write Down, I Am an Arab, directed by Ibtisam Mara’ana-Menuhin. Israel/Palestine, 2014. Borrowing the opening line of one of Mahmoud Darwish’s most famous poems, “Identity Card,” filmmaker Ibtisam Mara’ana-Menuhin titled her latest documentary Write Down, I Am an Arab. The film, which had its world premiere at Toronto’s Hot Docs festival in April of this year, is described as a biographical portrait of the poet who became the voice of Palestinian people. However, in her director’s statement, the filmmaker discloses an ulterior motive behind making the documentary. She writes, “The film reveals for the first time, the story of Mahmoud Darwish’s first love—a ...

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Understanding Modernity: A Review of the Kuwait Pavilion at the Venice Biennale

 [The Kuwait Pavilion in the Arsenale during the public opening on 7 June 2014. Photo by Roberto Fabbri.]

On 6 June 2014, the Kuwait pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia’s 14th International Architecture Exhibition opened with a restaging of an event that took place three decades earlier: the ceremonial opening of the Kuwait National Museum. Under the heading “Acquiring Modernity” (responding to the overall Biennale theme “Absorbing Modernity”), the Kuwait pavilion seeks to “articulate the nation’s history of modernization” by focusing its participation on the history of the national museum, first established in 1957 and then re-opened in 1983 in a structure designed by French architect Michel Ecochard (figure 1).

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Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar in Translation

[Cover of Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar,

Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar, The Time Regulation Institute, translated by Maureen Freely and Alexander Dawe, introduction by Pankaj Mishra. New York: Penguin, 2014.   The verbal text is jealous of its linguistic signature but impatient of national identity. Translation flourishes by virtue of that paradox.  — Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Translation as Culture” 1. Traveling Tanpınar 2014 marks the appearance of a second English translation of one of the funniest satirical novels of the twentieth century. Serialized from June to September 1954 in the newspaper Yeni Istanbul (New Istanbul), Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar’s Saatleri Ayarlama Enstitüsü was published in ...

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Israel and the Palestinian Territories Lonely Planet: Systematic Erasure and Casual Racism

[A view from Wadi Salib towards Haifa's government center. Photo by Alex Shams]

Haifa is a picturesque city of hills, gardens, and trendy cafes perched along the slopes of Mount Carmel in northern Israel. If the Lonely Planet guidebook is to be believed, Haifa is notable because Arabs and Jews live in “visible harmony,” and residents consider themselves a “model of tolerance” for the region (158). In Israel/Palestine, it seems, all it takes for harmony to prevail is for Arabs and Jews to sip lattes together—or at least close to each other, while speaking in Hebrew of course. After reading this description, the first image one encounters when entering Haifa, then, is a bit of a shock. At the entrance to the city, an impressive collection of ruined, ...

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Popular Neighborhoods and the Arab Spring: Elements for a Renewed Approach

Pierre-Arnaud Barthel and Sylvy Jaglin, editors, Quartiers informels d’un monde arabe en transition. Réflexions et perspectives pour l’action urbaine [Informal Settlements in an Arab World in Transition. Reflections and Perspectives for Urban Action]. Paris: Agence Française pour le Développement, Conférences et Séminaires 7, 2013. Available online. Housing in most of the Arab world cities is an informal affair. After having founded a family, or to remain near employment opportunities, most people trying to find a place to live in end up building their houses themselves, or participating in construction projects managed either by families or by modest real-estate ...

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Embedded Poetry: Iraq; Through a Soldier's Binoculars

[Hooded Iraqi prisoner comforting his son. Image by Jean-Marc Bouju from pdnonline.com]

Critics and reviewers greeted Brian Turner’s Here, Bullet (Alice James Books, 2005) with effusive and unanimous praise. His poems were read as “dispatches from a place more incomprehensible than the moon. . . observations we would never find in a Pentagon press release.” I read the poems back then and was not impressed or moved. I was not surprised that these poems would elicit such praise. Although they were read and were circulating in a climate of timid, but rising opposition to the war (not for the right reasons though) their vision did not challenge or problematize, in any way, the reigning official narrative of and about the war. They did represent the visceral ...

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A Creative Upsurge; Syrian Art Today (Part Two)

[Detail of Abdul Karim Majdal Al-Beik's

[Syria’s Apex Generation highlights post-uprising art as an introduction to the rich history of painting in Syria. Featuring the works of Abdul Karim Majdal Al-Beik, Nihad Al Turk, Othman Moussa, Mohannad Orabi, and Kais Salman, the exhibition and its accompanying publication explore a new school of painting in the midst of expansion despite the disintegration of the Damascus art scene, its original center. Informed by extensive traditions of expressionism, symbolism, and abstraction, this burgeoning group has forged ahead with the creative objectives of their predecessors, who advocated the social relevance of art. The essay below is reproduced from the exhibition’s ...

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Keep Your Eye on the Wall

[Taysir Batniji,

There were an impressive number of Palestinians at the 19 May opening in Ramallah of Keep Your Eye on the Wall, a photographic exhibit. “The Wall” (aka Apartheid Wall, Separation Wall, Security Fence, Barrier) is such an omnipresent feature of Palestinians’ lives, it is surprising they would voluntarily choose to look at photographs of it. But they did, and many seemed entranced by the large artistic images. “The striking visual impact is critical,” explained Olivia Snaije who conceptualized the project along with Mitchell Albert in order to raise awareness internationally. “Because even people who have heard about The Wall through the media don’t realize the meanings ...

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Revolution and Return: Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon and the End of Politics

Diana Allan, Refugees of the Revolution: Experiences of Palestinian Exile. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2013.   For some reason while reading Diana Allan’s wonderful new book, Refugees of the Revolution, I had the idea that its title was Ghosts of the Revolution. I am not sure why. It may be because that revolution, in its silences and absences, so insistently haunts the pages of this study, its traces scattered and lingering in the lives of those who lived it and created it and were left behind by it. And how else could it be? For it is of the past, and it is the past that has brought the Palestinians living in Shatila to where they are today. A ...

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The Vagaries of Laïcité

[This is the second of three responses to Muriam Haleh Davis’ review essay of books by Joan W. Scott, Naomi Davidson, and Mayanthi Fernando. For Joan W. Scott’s response, “More on Laïcité in Historical Context," click here.] A cartoon by the French cartoonist Gil from 10 January, titled “Communion nationale,” shows a white policeman frisking an ambiguously raced man standing against the wall with his hands in the air. “Je suis Charlie,” says the man, and the policeman replies, “Yeah, yeah, me too.” ...

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More on Laïcité in Historical Context

[This is the first of three responses to Muriam Haleh Davis’ review essay of books by Joan W. Scott, Naomi Davidson, and Mayanthi Fernando. For Naomi Davidson's response, "The Vagaries of Laïcité," click here.] I find Muriam Haleh Davis’ commentary on Charlie Hebdo and French secularism (by way of a review of three books, one of which is mine) to be clear and to the point. Davis insists on the importance of placing in historical context the paradoxical claim that laïcité is a universal ...

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A French Atlas of the Gulf States

Philippe Cadène and Brigitte Dumortier, Atlas of the Gulf States. Leiden: Brill, 2013. Mapping as a French Academic Tradition and its Critics It seems that English-speaking geographers and urbanists publish many fewer atlases, and draw fewer maps, than their French and—at least until recently—German counterparts. In France, there has been a frenzy of publishing atlases of everything and everywhere since the 1990s. What was first, at the advent of digital cartography, limited to academia, soon became a ...

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Sympathy for the Devil: Palestine’s Tragic Collaborators

Omar, directed by Hany Abu-Assad. Palestine, 2013. Omar, the most recent film by Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad (of Paradise Now fame), opens with a traversing of obstacles—a prefatory homage to the resilient Palestinian spirit. Exuding youthful vigor, the titular character scales the portion of the separation wall isolating his West Bank neighborhood from that of his childhood friends, his resistance brigade, and his love interest. Omar fearlessly scurries along the edges of buildings and leaps ...

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Do Not Compel Me to Sing

I Left My Shoes in Istanbul, directed by Nigol Bezjian. Lebanon/Turkey, 2013. Nigol Bezjian’s I Left My Shoes in Istanbul begins with its protagonist protesting that he has no desire to go on the journey that lies at the heart of the film. It ends with the haunting voice of a singer, begging the listener, “Do not implore me, I will not sing.” Between these two attempts to escape from a story that nevertheless must be told, Bezjian presents us with a vision that is deeply personal, not always coherent, ...

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The House of Melancholy and Strength

House of Strength  Performance by Nooshin Rostami Choreography by Merisha Mesihovic Industry City Open Studios, Brooklyn 26 April 2014    [House of Strength is a performance by the Iranian Brooklyn-based artist Nooshin Rostami inspired by the traditional Persian gymnasiums called Zoorkhane (House of Strength). The Zoorkhaneh is a place where male participants practice a lengthy series of exercises designed to build their bodies and skills. Women have been traditionally ...

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NEWTON Summer Reading

As we head into the summer, Jadaliyya would like to remind you of some of the most creative and groundbreaking works in Middle East studies that we have featured in our New Texts Out Now (NEWTON) page during the 2013-2014 academic year. Whether you are an instructor thinking about texts for the fall, a student doing research, or a reader making a summer reading list, you will find a wealth of interviews about and excerpts from works across a range of topics and disciplines. We have provided a list of ...

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Representing Hamas (Part 2)

Shlomi Eldar, Lehakir et Hamas [“To Know Hamas”]. Jerusalem: Keter, 2012.  [Part one of this review can be found here.] The Military Complex  Eldar structures his narrative around character profiles of Palestinian activists, mainly Hamas leaders, their assassination by Israel, and the broader Israeli military operations. In order to recount the killing of Ahmed Yassin, the founder and leader of the movement, for example, Eldar has researched the decision-making process leading up to it and ...

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Representing Hamas (Part 1)

Shlomi Eldar, Lehakir et Hamas [“To Know Hamas"]. Jerusalem: Keter, 2012. The latest book by veteran Israeli journalist Shlomi Eldar, Lehakir et Hamas [“To Know Hamas], is a must-read for anyone interested in Hamas and the trajectory of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict since the beginning of the second intifada in 2000. Eldar has researched his subject thoroughly, and provides an original and revealing account of the movement. He has had extraordinary access to the movement while also providing a ...

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A Creative Upsurge; Syrian Art Today (Part One)

[Syria’s Apex Generation highlights post-uprising art as an introduction to the rich history of painting in Syria. Featuring the works of Abdul Karim Majdal Al-Beik, Nihad Al Turk, Othman Moussa, Mohannad Orabi, and Kais Salman, the exhibition and its accompanying publication explore a new school of painting in the midst of expansion despite the disintegration of the Damascus art scene, its original center. Informed by extensive traditions of expressionism, symbolism, and abstraction, this burgeoning ...

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The Black Box of French History

Andrew Hussey, The French Intifada: The Long War Between France and Its Arabs. London: Granta, 2014. In 2005, a series of disturbing events occurred in France. In February, the parliament attempted to pass a law to force schools to teach “the positive role of French presence overseas, especially in North Africa.” That same autumn, riots erupted in a number of suburbs northeast of Paris, gradually spreading to other French cities and provoking the government to declare a state of emergency that had ...

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In Performance: Undeniable Voices, Palestinian Agency and Marginalized Narratives

From 3-5 April 2014, I attended three notable theatrical productions that dealt directly and indirectly with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the Diary of Anne Frank at Raleigh’s Burning Coal Theatre, directed by the Artistic Director of Bethlehem’s Alrowwad Cultural and Theatre Society Abdelfattah Abusrour; a workshop production of The Admission by the Israeli playwright Motti Lerner at Washington D.C.’s Jewish Cultural Center; and a private reading of Peace, a new one-act play by the Palestinian ...

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Jadaliyya Reviews offers a place for commentary, debates, and exchanges on books, fims, videos, art, theater, music, new media, conferences, protests, and events. Visit our Call for Reviews page for more information about submitting posts/reviews online! Send your reviews to: reviews@jadaliyya.com

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