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Remembering Sound

[The opening scene of

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 it as an unfinished and unreliable narrative. Their artistic practice aims to interrogate its absences and exclusions, manipulate its forms and mediums, and expand its ...

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An Ecology of World Literature

[Cover of Alexander Beecroft,

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 of his desire to say something useful about literatures (in his case ancient Greece and early China) in conjunction with each other that did not depend on claims of ...

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Of Shadows and Solidarity

[Cover of Keith P. Feldman,

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 the sacredness of the “special relationship” between the United States and Israel. One of the most resounding rhetorical turns came from Brooklyn Congressman Hakeem ...

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

[Cover of Mandy Turner and Omar Shweiki,

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 described as the neoliberalization of Palestine, dark indicators of what was to come. Before that it was coffee shops. Next year it will be something else. Since 2008 ...

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Inheriting More than Loss

[Cover of Siamak Vossoughi,

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 come, but feeling this possibility impinge upon their daily lives in unexpected ways. In the titular story, an Iranian American teenage boy cannot ask out the American ...

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The Architecture of Nostalgia

[Hazem Harb's

The Invisible Landscape and Concrete Futures: A Solo Exhibition of Hazem Harb, Salsali Private Museum, Dubai. 3 March—1 September 2015 Contemporary colonialism—exemplified by Israel’s occupation of Palestine—asserts its hegemony through the manipulation of two key sites: historical narratives and physical infrastructures. The effacement of Palestinian presence on the land before 1948 constitutes a crucial part of the former strategy; the construction of walls and settlements that keep Palestinians within controlled, delineated spaces while expanding Israeli presence, combined with the destruction of existing infrastructure through regular invasions of Gaza, marks the ...

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The Settling of the United States from the Perspective of its Victims

[Cover of Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz,

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. Boston: Beacon Press, 2014. The Acoma poet Simon Ortiz writes in From Sand Creek that “the future will not be mad with loss and waste though the memory will.” People will not forget their past, but that should not stand in the way of change. Ortiz adds, “Be there: eyes will become kind and deep, and the bones of this nation will mend after the revolution.” Ortiz’s words are an invitation—an appeal for a shared struggle. They are the coda to the historian and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s superb new book, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. With such words, she reveals much of ...

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If Israeli Tactics in Gaza Are Legal, No One is Safe: Response to Michael N. Schmitt and John J. Merriam

[IDF's Nahal Brigade conducting a search in the Hebron area. Image by Israeli Defense Forces.]

In their forthcoming paper, The Tyranny of Context: Israeli Targeting Practices in Legal Perspective, Michael Schmitt and John J. Merriam examine Israel’s targeting practices against the Gaza Strip and Lebanon. Their purpose is to scrutinize the context in which these attacks take place as well as the Israeli Army’s relevant legal standards regulating them. Their findings are based on two visits to Israel in December 2014 and February 2015. During those visits, the Israeli Army granted them: …unprecedented access that included a “staff ride” of the Gaza area, inspection of an Israeli operations center responsible for overseeing combat operations, a visit to a ...

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The Art of Posing

[Still image from Francis Alÿs’ “The Green Line: Sometimes Doing Something Poetic Can Become Political and Sometimes Doing Something Political Can Become Poetic”]

Zones of Contention: After The Green Line. 8 February – 3 May 2015. The Bob & Lissa Shelley McDowell Gallery, Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Greensboro. In March 2015, I delivered an invited “Point of View Talk” at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s Weatherspoon Art Museum on Zones of Contention: After the Green Line, an exhibit of works by Palestinian and Israeli artists, including a piece by Belgian Francis Alÿs, from which the exhibit draws its title. The museum’s Point of View Talks are intended to “amplify aspects of an exhibition through the perspectives of scholars from diverse fields.” My own particular point of view ...

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The Armenian Genocide and the Politics of Knowledge

[Cover of Ronald Grigor Suny, “'They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else': A History of the Armenian Genocide

Ronald Grigor Suny, “They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else": A History of the Armenian Genocide. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015. In this centennial year since the Armenian Genocide, countless conferences, meetings, and commemorations are underway across the globe. While they have all been peaceful so far, they come at the end of a century of violence. I refer not just to the events of 1915-17, but also the waves of violence spurred by memory, recognition, and denial ever since. First came the killings, at the hands of individual Armenians, of two of the leading perpetrators of the violence, Talaat and Cemal Pashas in Berlin and Tiflis, ...

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Twelve Years After Iraq Invasion: An Interview with Rijin Sahakian, and “ A Letter to Al-Mutanabbi Street” by Sinan Antoon

[U.S. Marines patrol the streets of Al Faw, October 2003. Photo by Ted Banks from Wikimedia Commons]

On 19 March 2015, twelve years will have passed since the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Today, the country is back in the headlines because of the brutality with which ISIS has been trying to destroy what is left of Iraq’s diverse cultural and human landscape. Since ISIS has moved into northern Iraq, they have displaced over a million people and gone after the cultural heritage that makes Iraq such an irreplaceable locus of world history. They have destroyed mosques, burned thousands of books in the library at Mosul and, in the past few weeks, desecrated some of the country’s most significant ancient archeological sites. This week, Malihe Razazan speaks with Rijin ...

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Imperial Consequences of Things: An Interview with Alan Mikhail

[Ottoman Egypt and Its Animals. Ahmed ibn Hemdem Süheyli, Tarih-i Mısır ül-Cedid, Süleymaniye Kütüphanesi, Hüsrev Paşa 353/2, 121]

In this interview, Alan Mikhail discusses his own work on the environmental history of the Ottoman Empire, the wider intervention of environmental history, and the challenge of interdisciplinarity. The interview was initially conducted in person at the 2013 Middle East Studies Association (MESA) conference and elaborated electronically over the course of 2014. Alan Mikhail, Professor of History at Yale University, is a historian of the early modern Muslim world, the Ottoman Empire, and Egypt. He is the author of The Animal in Ottoman Egypt (Oxford University Press, 2014) and Nature and Empire in Ottoman Egypt: An Environmental ...

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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 ...

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The Early Plight of Humanitarianism

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 ...

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Whitewashing Colonialism

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 ...

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

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. ...

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The Moroccan Non-Exception: 'Much Loved' and Realism, Colonialism, and Pornography in Moroccan Cinema

[The following is the second installment in "The Moroccan Non-Exception" Jadaliyya roundtable. Read the introduction here.] A wave of contentious reactions have dominated the Moroccan media landscape following the release of Nabil Ayouch's new film Much Loved, a fictional story about three Moroccan prostitutes in Marrakech. The reactions to the film are based on several extracts and a trailer that emerged online, some of which contained sexually explicit scenes. The excerpts were released ...

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A Theory of the Drone

Grégoire Chamayou, A Theory of the Drone, translated by Janet Lloyd. New York: The New Press, 2015. Since the turn of this century, armed drones (that is, unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs) have become a weapon of choice for the United States. Drone strikes started during the Bush administration with the “war on terror.” Under the Obama administration, drone warfare has been elevated to the pinnacle of counter-terrorism strategy, a shift driven by the combined effects of the draw-down of US forces from ...

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Daoud’s Camus Fanfiction Is More of the Same

Kamel Daoud, The Meursault Investigation. Translated by John Cullen. New York: Other Press 2015. Algerian journalist Kamel Daoud’s debut novel The Meursault Investigation, recently translated into English, retells the story of Albert Camus’s The Stranger from the point of view of Harun, the brother of the unnamed Arab that Camus's hero, Meursault, murders. The Meursault Investigation has garnered great praise in American media, sparking multiple articles in the New York Times, Washington Post, and ...

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Planning Beirut during the French Mandate: The Construction of a Modern City and its Legacy

Marlène Ghorayeb, Beyrouth sous mandat français, construction d’une ville moderne. Paris: Karthala, 2014.   This is a wonderful addition to our knowledge of Beirut’s early days of modern planning, during the transition from Late Ottoman to French Mandate, and later. In the lineage of Jens Hanssen’s Fin de Siècle Beirut, Eric Verdeil’s Beyrouth et ses urbanistes, Carla Eddé’s Naissance d’une capitale, and Robert Saliba’s Beyrouth architectures: Aux sources de la modernité, the book is a must-read ...

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Un portrait de la jeunesse des banlieues populaires de Tunis aujourd’hui

Recension: Olfa Lamloun et Mohamed Ali Ben Zina (dir.), Les jeunes de Douar Hicher et d’Ettadhamen. Une enquête sociologique (Tunis: Arabesques, International Alert, 2015) Depuis les « printemps arabes », les jeunes du Monde arabe attirent volontiers l’attention des chercheurs. Dans la littérature scientifique de langue française, on pense notamment à Jeunesses arabes. Du Maroc au Yémen: loisirs, cultures et politiques sous la direction de Laurent Bonnefoy et Myriam Catusse et paru aux ...

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Reflections on Public Spaces in Revolutionary and Post-Revolutionary Tunis

Chiara Sebastiani, Una città, una rivoluzione. Tunisi e la riconquista dello spazio pubblico. Cosenza: Luigi Pellegrini Editore, 2014. Collective, Au centre de Tunis: Géographies de l’espace public après une Révolution, available online here. The question of public space has been among the most discussed ones during the short and often tragic season of the so-called "Arab Spring." From Cairo’s Tahrir Square to the streets of Damascus, researchers and commentators have examined the logics of ...

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Istanbul 2023

Yoann Morvan et Sinan Logie, Istanbul 2023, Paris: Editions B2, Coll. Territoires, 2014. Les éditions B2 ont récemment enrichi leur collection Territoires par un « arpentage dans le temps et l’espace » d’Istanbul. Mais pas dans n’importe quel Istanbul. Istanbul 2023, c’est avant toute chose le choix de raconter les métamorphoses de la mégapole turque à partir de l’analyse des recompositions socio-urbaines de ses périphéries. Grands projets d’infrastructures, villes nouvelles, nouveau centre ...

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Loving the Lens: ‘American Sniper’ as Movie and Event

American Sniper, directed by Clint Eastwood. USA, 2014. There is a lull at the moment in the clamor around Clint Eastwood's controversial film American Sniper, as award season ends and the movie's powerful box office stamina pushes the DVD release into the summer. This moment perhaps offers an opportunity to consider what—if anything—might or should be said about it as a piece of cinema. Sniper, starring Bradley Cooper in the title role, has to have been the most written about movie in the United ...

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