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Five Years After the Arab Uprisings: An Interview with Asef Bayat

[Asef Bayat]

This interview was conducted on the occasion of the publication of the Turkish editions of Asef Bayat’s Making Islam Democratic and Life as Politics (Stanford University Press, 2007 and 2013 respectively), and originally appeared in Cumhuriyet Kitap 1366 (21 April 2016): 14–15. It is a follow-up of our first public correspondence, “‘Our Revolution Is Civil’: An Interview with Asef Bayat on Revolt and Change in the Arab World,” that was published in The Hedgehog Review five years ago. Özgür Gökmen (ÖG): In Life as Politics you refer to the dangers of foreign intervention more than once. Expectations were not high but there was still some hope for the region in 2011. ...

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A Different Kind of Future

The United States’ founders were taken with the idea that they were building a New Jerusalem. Rhetoric of a City on the Hill animated the state-building project, particularly during what some historians call the colonial era. Such symbolism, and the shared tropes of settler-colonial land redemption, have ensured for Palestine a long history in the life of the United States. But from 1960 onwards, argues Keith Feldman in his new book, A Shadow Over Palestine, Palestine and struggles over Palestine got caught up in nearly revolutionary revolts in the United States around civil rights, Black Power, the war on Vietnam, and the meaning of democracy under racial capitalism. ...

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Third Annual Cultural Resistance International Film Festival of Lebanon

[Anurag Kashyap's

Cultural Resistance International Film Festival of Lebanon, Beirut, 9-10 November 2015. Sandwiched between the Beirut International Film Festival and a slew of ongoing fall film offerings, the third annual Cultural Resistance International Film Festival of Lebanon (CRIFF) concluded in mid-November. This curiously-named, soon-to-be-renamed-and-revamped festival remains noteworthy for its unique Asia-Mediterranean focus, notwithstanding the modest size of the three-film package that was curated for this year’s edition. The festival opened at Metropolis Cinema, a hub for several festivals and film exhibitions in Beirut, with Tayfun Pirselimoğlu’s I Am Not Him (2013, ...

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Drifting Away: De-Occupying the Palestinian Self

Speed Sisters (2015) directed by Amber Fares

Speed Sisters, directed by Amber Fares. Palestine, 2015 “If only you’d resist the occupation with something other than sports and fashion,” complained a YouTube user in the comments section of a video about the Speed Sisters—an all-female Palestinian race-car driving team in the West Bank, and the first of its kind in the Middle East. The comment is mentioned in the documentary Speed Sisters, by filmmaker Amber Fares. The film shadows the five enthusiastic race-car drivers, highlighting the experiences that pushed them towards the sport; the sometimes cordial and supportive, sometimes tense and competitive, dynamic within the team; the familial and communal responses ...

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Conflicting Narratives: War, Trauma, and Memory in Iraqi Culture

[Cover of Arab Studies Journal (Vol. XXIII No. 1), Fall 2015]

Stephan Milich, Friederike Pannewick, and Leslie Tramontini, editors, Conflicting Narratives: War, Trauma, and Memory in Iraqi Culture. Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2012. [This review was originally published in the most recent issue of Arab Studies Journal. For more information on the issue, or to subscribe to ASJ, click here.] Looking at Iraq from our current vantage point it is easy to forget the rich cultural history contained within the borders of a country that has been plagued by warfare for over thirty years, with each catastrophic event seemingly overshadowing the previous one. Iraq has had no shortage of writers and intellectuals. In the latter half of the ...

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Alexandrian Cosmopolitanism: An Archive

[Cover of Arab Studies Journal (Vol. XXIII No. 1), Fall 2015]

Hala Halim, Alexandrian Cosmopolitanism: An Archive. New York: Fordham University Press, 2013. [This review was originally published in the most recent issue of Arab Studies Journal. For more information on the issue, or to subscribe to ASJ, click here.] Hala Halim’s book is a provocative and erudite study of the modern European literary discourses that have constructed Alexandria as the exemplary site of what we might call cosmopolitan desire. Following Edward Said’s critique of orientalism’s endless discursive recycling of itself, Halim reads these Alexandria representations as an archive of a specialized Eurocentric discourse based in canonical texts characterized ...

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The Ambiguous Encampment of the World

Michel Agier (ed.), Un monde de camps (A World of Camps), (Paris: La Découverte, 2014). The refugee camp is a topic of interest for many social scientists coming from different disciplines such as geography, urban studies, and anthropology. Literature on refugee camps has often been fragmented according to regions or to their particular dynamics (Palestinian refugee camps in the Middle East, refugee camps of the past decade's wars in different parts of Africa, administrative detention centres for asylum seekers or “illegal” immigrants in Europe). Edited by French anthropologist Michel Agier, the aim of this volume Un monde de camps (A world of camps) is to go beyond ...

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A Muslim Future to Come?

[This article was first published on Public Books.]  Michel Houellebecq, Submission. Translated from the French by Lorin Stein. New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2015. The devastating attacks of 13 November on Paris’s tenth and eleventh arrondissements viciously targeted the “progressive” heart of the city. When I am there, that is where I live. Like many other inhabitants and observers, I find it difficult to comprehend why the militants assaulted this historically working-class, vibrant, multicultural, and youthful neighborhood—admittedly often characterized as gentrifying and “bobo”—and not the manicured and touristy “beaux quartiers” to the ...

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[Image from the exhibition

Grandchildren: New Geographies of Belonging, DEPO-Istanbul, opened 3 September 2015. Anniversaries are pretexts for remembering decisive moments in history, for interpreting them with the help of added data and research material, and filling gaps in existing accounts about them. Retrospection is employed here to elaborate further on the context of these moments and also to establish links between them and the present. The exhibitions held for commemorating the one hundredth anniversary of the Armenian Genocide had to assume the task of visualizing and presenting what happened—against the backlash of difficulties in retrieving documentary material from the distant past ...

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The Early Plight of Humanitarianism

[Cover of Keith David Watenpaugh,

Keith David Watenpaugh, Bread from Stones: The Middle East and the Making of Modern Humanitarianism. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2015 America is a comfortable and rich country. We have safe homes….Their homes are in ruins….The moan of a race moves out across the heart of a stricken world. This emotive call from a Near East Relief (NER) pamphlet to assist destitute Armenians, entitled The Cry of a Million: Exiled Destitute Dying, was published in 1916, but its words resonate across Europe a century later. The mass deportation and genocide of the Armenian community in 1915 helped trigger new ways of thinking about “human rights” and ...

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Whitewashing Colonialism

[Cover of Sharon Rotbard,

Sharon Rotbard, White City, Black City: Architecture and War in Tel Aviv and Jaffa. Translated from Hebrew by Orin Gat. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015. As the “enlightened public” and guests from Dessau’s Bauhaus Institute celebrated UNESCO’s recognition of Tel Aviv’s “Bauhaus” White City as a World Heritage site in 2003, police brutally attacked the city's migrant workers. At the same time, the IDF executed Operation Rainbow in Rafah, destroying residential tower blocks, and causing fifty-eight Palestinian casualties. Sharon Rotbard, in White City, Black City: Architecture and War in Tel Aviv and Jaffa, thinks the relationship between these episodes. He constructs, ...

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Leila Sansour’s Open Bethlehem: Making Palestine Legible and Bethlehem Accessible

[Leila Sansour/Open Bethlehem]

Open Bethlehem. Directed by Leila Sansour. Palestine, 2014 Towards the end of her new documentary Open Bethlehem (Palestine, 2014), filmmaker Leila Sansour discusses her aim to make Palestine “more important and palatable” to the White House and to US citizens. She stands outside the gated capitol of the United States, knowing that the future of her hometown of Bethlehem is directly connected with policies that are in some ways more significantly determined, not in Ramallah, but in Washington. Sansour’s ambition extends a long lineage of Palestinian documentaries that have appealed for broad international support since the Nakba of 1948. Establishing a place for ...

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Un éclairage inédit sur l’histoire moderne de la ville de Bagdad

Caecilia Pieri, Bagdad. La construction d’une capitale moderne (1914-1960) (Beyrouth: Presses de l’Ifpo, 2015) (sur le site de l’éditeur). A travers cet ouvrage Caecilia Pieri apporte un éclairage inédit sur l’histoire urbaine de la ville de Bagdad dans la première moitié du XXe siècle. Ce travail inscrit Bagdad dans la lignée des travaux qui ont abordé les processus de modernisation des villes orientales telles que le Caire, Beyrouth ou encore Damas, à l’aube du XXe siècle (Arnaud 2005, Volait ...

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Astro Noise: War on Terror as (Virtual) Reality

Laura Poitras: Astro Noise, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 5 February – 1 May 2016 [This review was first published on Warscapes.] On the eighth floor of the Whitney Museum of American Art, a large projection brings viewers back to the aftermath of the attacks of 11 September 2001. One side of the screen plays O’Say Can You See, a two-channel film by artist, filmmaker and journalist Laura Poitras containing slow-motion footage of stunned onlookers at Ground Zero in the days following 9/11. A ...

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Modernity, Identity, and Technology in Palestine Before the Nakba

Noah Haiduc-Dale, Arab Christians in British Mandate Palestine: Communalism and Nationalism, 1917-1948. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013. Wasif Jawhariyyeh, The Storyteller of Jerusalem: The Life and Times of Wasif Jawhariyyeh, 1904-1948. Edited and introduced by Salim Tamari and Issam Nassar, translated by Nada Elzeer, foreword by Rachel Beckles Willson. Northampton, MA, and Beirut, Lebanon: Olive Branch Press and Institute for Palestine Studies, 2014. Anbara Salam Khalidi, Memoirs of an ...

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Monsoon Revolution

Abdel Razzaq Takriti, Monsoon Revolution: Republicans, Sultans, and Empires in Oman, 1965-1976. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. [This review was originally published in the most recent issue of Arab Studies Journal. For more information on the issue, or to subscribe to ASJ, click here.] Abdel Razzaq Takriti’s excellent book will quickly be established as the definitive account of the revolutionary Arab nationalist and third worldist armed struggle in Dhufar, waged against the ...

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Saddam Hussein’s Ba’th Party: Inside an Authoritarian Regime

Joseph Sassoon, Saddam Hussein’s Ba‘th Party: Inside an Authoritarian Regime. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. [This review was originally published in the most recent issue of Arab Studies Journal. For more information on the issue, or to subscribe to ASJ, click here.] Despite the attention that Iraq has commanded in the news media and among policymakers since 1990, the country’s history, politics, culture, and economy have remained remarkably understudied. This situation is beginning to ...

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Petrodollars and Profit: Rethinking Political Economy through the Middle East

Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler. The Scientist and the Church. World Economic Association, 2015. Howard Page, a director at what was then Exxon, was once asked, “What would have happened if Iraq production had also surged during the 1960’s,” like that of Saudi Arabia and Iran. He responded, “I admit we would have been in one tough problem.” The company was pumping fast from the latter countries, as well as Libya. “Can you swallow this amount of oil?” the questioner continued. “With Iraq ...

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Militarized Neoliberalism: Jeff Halper's "War Against the People"

Jeff Halper, War Against the People: Israel, the Palestinians and Global Pacification. London: Pluto Press, 2015. Dew drops as dual use remote sensors; mechanized micro-drones the size of wasps wandering the skies; and cannons blasting water at such high velocity as to turn globules of liquid into bullets and shells. These are the new technologies coming out of Israel’s military-industrial-security workshops. Once in hand, the Israeli army tests its tools through the colonization of Palestine. Then the ...

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Remembering Sound

Hamule, directed by Mauricio Misle. Palestine/Chile, 2014. Diasporic and non-Western artists have increasingly turned to the archive as a source for their artistic practice. Mindful of the histories of colonialism and slavery, they have attempted to address the archive as a contested site where knowledge about the past is produced and legitimized. In their refusal to treat the archive as a sanctioned repository of fact, or as an accurate and objective representation of the past, they have conceptualized ...

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An Ecology of World Literature

Alexander Beecroft, An Ecology of World Literature: From Antiquity to the Present Day. London and New York: Verso Books. Alexander Beecroft’s most recent study, An Ecology of World Literature, is a profound undertaking that uses the scientific framework of ecology to “facilitate the comparative study of the interactions between literatures and their environments,” and hopefully to provoke discussions about particular cultural contexts with specific ecologies. Beecroft’s intellectual interests grew out ...

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Of Shadows and Solidarity

Keith P. Feldman, A Shadow over Palestine: The Imperial Life of Race in America. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015. In July 2014, at the height of the most recent Israeli military assault upon Gaza, a major rally was held in New York City—in defense of Israel. “United We Stand with Israel” attracted major figures in city, state, and national politics, the large majority of them progressive Democrats, who offered fiery speeches affirming Israel’s right to self-defense and recommitting to ...

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What Do We Talk About When We Talk About Political Economy?

Mandy Turner and Omar Shweiki, editors, Decolonizing Palestinian Political Economy: De-Development and Beyond. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. Anyone who visited Ramallah in 2013 would have heard a lot of talk about seatbelts. Everyone there—everyone—was talking about them, and how consistent and prevalent they had become after just a little bit of police enforcement. In 2010 it was the multi-space parking meters the Ramallah municipality had recently installed. Both events and practices were commonly ...

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Inheriting More than Loss

Siamak Vossoughi, Better Than War. Athens and London: University of Georgia Press, 2015. [Winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction] What is it like to grow up in a country that routinely threatens to wage war on the place you are from? What happens to your sense of your self in the world? The Iranian immigrants in Siamak Vossoughi’s short story collection Better Than War become Iranian American in the context of looming US military intervention in Iran, never knowing when or if war will ...

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