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Arab Studies Journal Announces Spring 2017 Issue: Editor's Note and Table of Contents

Arab Studies Journal Volume XXV, no. 1 (Spring 2017) EDITOR'S NOTE Since the November 2016 elections, the dying gasps of US exceptionalism has meant the intensification of attacks on the lives and movement of people from the Arab ...

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

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 ...

[Helen Zughaib's Syrian Migration series #2 (2017). Image copyright the artist]

April Culture

The great American Pop artist James Rosenquist (who died on 31 March) once said "History is remembered by its art, not its war machines." With this in mind, Jadaliyya's Culture Bouquet returns with new art reviews, ...

[Left to right: Brian Edwards and Bassam Haddad.]

Bassam Haddad and Brian Edwards Discuss Middle East Studies and Public Scholarship

This conversation between Bassam Haddad of George Mason University and Brian Edwards of Northwestern University addresses the role of public scholarship and its relation to print publication within the climate of Middle East Studies. The ...


It's Not About Islam, Stupid!

[Image from unknown archive]

“Yes We Can” Since the flight of Tunisia’s Ben Ali on January 14th, there has apparently been a breakthrough in the imaginary of the possible in the Arab world.  I was in Egypt at the time, and reeling as everyone seemed to be from the bombing of the Coptic church in Alexandria, attention soon became fixed on Tunisia, and a moment of national unity in reaction to the tragic event in Alexandria, soon developed into a movement of national unity that dared to conceive of and act toward an alternative to their own regime. Like many others, I have also been riveted to coverage of the demonstrations that Tunisia’s revolution inspired in Egypt, a revolution that remained ...

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Why Egypt's Progressives Win

[Women protesting in Tahrir Square; Image from AP]

On 6 February 2011, Egypt’s hastily appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman invited in the old guard or what we could call the Businessmen’s Wing of the Muslim Brothers into a stately meeting in the polished rosewood Cabinet Chamber of Mubarak’s Presidential Palace. The aim of their tea party was to discuss some kind of accord that would end the national uprising and restore “normalcy.” When news of the meeting broke, expressions of delight and terror tore through the blogosphere. Was the nightmare scenario of both the political left and right about to be realized? Would the US/Israel surrogate Suleiman merge his military-police apparatus with the power of the ...

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Revolutionary Contagion: Morocco and a Plea for Specificity

An image of Mohamed VI of Morocco, featured on the bigbrother.ma blog

Since January 15th, media discourse on the Arab world has almost uniformly coalesced around a single term, “contagion.” This is a telling semantic choice given the word’s broader associations with disease; a synonym for “infection” or “contamination,” it carries rhetorical connotations that are hardly subtle. The Wall Street Journal has analyzed Egypt’s “contagion risk” (Feb. 1st) and in the past two and a half weeks The New York Times has published at least half a dozen articles on the topic, with the same word always employed. On Feb. 2nd, for example, Sara Hamdan asked, “which countries will be most susceptible to contagion?” The risk of contagion, the susceptibility ...

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Little Protests, Big Erasures

[The Back of a Guantanamo Prison Uniform, Image from Unknown Archive]

In a recent interview with Carol Rosenberg, Joint Detention Group Commander Col. Thomas’ has stated that, contrary to reports issued by the Center for Constitutional Rights and CUNY Law School, detainees at Guantanamo Bay are not, in fact, engaged in protests. According to Col. Thomas, detainees are neither holding sit-ins, nor particularly moved by the events unfolding across the Middle East. Instead, Col. Thomas -- in an attempt to “set the record straight”-- tells us that detainees are actually far more engrossed in following soccer tournaments. I suppose it’s no coincidence that in presenting this as the ‘real’ state of affairs, Guantamano Bay gets fashioned as ...

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State Culture, State Anarchy

[Gaber Asfour Sworn in as Minister of Culture. Image from Alarabiyya]

Mubarak told Christiane Amanpour that Egyptian “culture” was anarchic in nature—and that chaos would break out if he stepped down. So, Egyptians are barbaric and can be tamed only by the strong hand of a loving father—what else is new? This is not just what Lord Cromer used to say, it is exactly what the autumnal patriarch has been saying for twenty years now, channeling the stark (and false) choice once proposed by Matthew Arnold, "culture or anarchy." The slogan analog appeared on signs carried by Mubarak’s goon squads this week: “Thirty years of stability, Nine days of chaos.” While “culture” has little to do with the underlying demands of the people ...

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How Can Egypt Get From Tahrir Square to Democracy? Lessons from Poland in 1989

[Polish Round Table 1989; Image from Wiki Commons]

This article is co-written by Michael Kennedy and Shiva Balaghi “To Husni Mubarak: leave already. Arabs around the world are trying to sleep,” read a tweet. “Leave already, my hand hurts,” read a sign held up by a man on Cairo’s streets. From Tahrir Square, we hear that protesters are facing a new pressure possibly more strong than the pro-Mubarak thugs set lose on them in recent days. Family members, neighbors and merchants in the Tahrir area are pleading with them to go home already and let life get “back to normal.” The White House has heard the message that Mubarak must go, and must go now. But what next? On January 25, the very first day of these protests, a young ...

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Impromptu: The Cairo Commune

[Egyptian protester hooked to an IV drip, image from unknown archive]

They fought tooth and nail Wednesday night and defended al-Tahrir Square after a long day during which the last Pharao played his last card by unleashing his hired dogs to attack unarmed protesters who shook the earth in Egypt under his throne. When darkness fell, those heroes persevered despite a rain of rocks, Molotov cocktails and sniper bullets. They barricaded themselves and sealed the entrances to al-Tahrir. Their real barricades, however, were their hearts and spirit and those supporting them. Hundreds were wounded and some lost their lives. Their spirits were hovering over al-Tahrir, waiting and looking down at their comrades who were determined to defend the ...

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Everything Is Illuminated

Protest in front of the Egyptian Mission, New York City [Photo by Anthony Alessandrini]

Everything is exposed. Every crack is showing. Protesters throughout Egypt have put their bodies on the line day after day, their vulnerable, breakable bodies, and with their bodies, they have forced, each day, a bit more of the story to become illuminated. Anyone familiar with the combination of brutality and tactical expertise possessed by the Mubarak regime could not have been surprised by the savage strategy that has been aimed at unarmed protesters in Cairo and throughout the country over the past few days. The signs of a scorched earth strategy became apparent early on: the “mysterious” disappearance of security forces from the streets followed almost immediately ...

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Into Egypt's Uncharted Territory

[Image from unknown archive]

Amidst the monumental Egyptian popular uprising of 2011, Plan A for the Egyptian regime and the Obama administration was for Husni Mubarak to remain president of Egypt indefinitely. They have now moved on to Plan B. It was clear that Mubarak was no longer calling the shots before his broadcast statement on February 1, in which he promised to step down in September. The previous evening, it was not he but his newly named vice president, ‘Umar Sulayman, who appeared on state television to announce the latest government measures, chiefly an offer to negotiate with opposition figures over the direction of a political transition. The opposition -- that is, the heads of the ...

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Jordan: The Limits of Comparison

[Recently appointed Prime Minister, Ma'rouf al-Bakhit. Image from unknown archive]

On Tuesday, February 1, 2011, Prime Minister Samir al-Rifa’i submitted his resignation and that of his cabinet. Such developments come in the wake of three consecutive Fridays, wherein protesters throughout Jordan decried the existing economic conditions and called for the resignation of Samir al-Rifa'i’s government. The persistence of protesters week after week and the subsequent resignation (i.e., dismissal) of al-Rifa’i’s entire cabinet – despite various government attempts to appease the public – have led many to lump Jordan within the broader wave of social and political unrest that has swept the Arab world (most notably Tunisia and Egypt). However, a close ...

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Why Mubarak is Out

[Image from Lefteris Pitarakis / AP Photo]

The “March of Millions” in Cairo marks the spectacular emergence of a new political society in Egypt. This uprising brings together a new coalition of forces, uniting reconfigured elements of the security state with prominent business people, internationalist leaders, and relatively new (or newly reconfigured ) mass movements of youth, labor, women’s and religious groups. President Hosni Mubarak lost his political power on Friday, 28 January. On that night the Egyptian military let Mubarak’s ruling party headquarters burn down and ordered the police brigades attacking protesters to return to their barracks. When the evening call to prayer rang out and no one ...

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Singing for the Revolution

[Nigm and Imam Performing, Image from Unknown Archive]

So was it Wikileaks, Facebook, or Twitter? Perhaps all three contributed to the revolutionary winds in the Arab world? This is one of the questions repeated ad nauseam by a great number of commentators and parroted by many in the United States and elsewhere in the “civilized world.” Others wonder if perhaps it was Obama’s speech in Cairo or even the Bush doctrine (for Fox-infested minds and they are many)? Yes, new technologies and social media definitely played a role and provided a new space and mode, but this discourse eliminates and erases the real agents of these revolutions: the women and men who are making history before our eyes. Members of our species have done ...

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ثورة...وأشياء صغيرة أخرى [A Revolution. . . and a Few Other Things]

 طيارة ورق بدت أصابع رجب أرقّ من سيقان الورود، وهي تلف الخيوط السوداء والبيضاء حول العيدان بعزم وحذر متلعثم. استوطنت بقايا شحم السيارات تحت أظفاره، فصبغتها بالسواد ولم يساعده غسلها كل يوم إلا قليلاً. شحم السيارات التي يفك قطعها منذ خمسين عاماً لا يمر مرور الكرام فوق هذا الجسد، فيبدو رجب كأنه ولد بأظفار يتمدد تحتها سوادٌ أفحم من الليل . «أنفخ معايا في الهوا يا عم، يمكن طيارتي تطير فوق الرؤوس»، قالت له الصغيرة بصوتها المشدوه الذي كان يبحث عن مكان له في زحمة الهتافات في الميدان. ترك رجب الجمع الذي ...

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Making History in Tahrir

Nightingale, do not fear your song Speak your complaint and tell of your ordeal The song will not kill you but Holding back song is what will kill you I wonder! Salah Jahin (1930-1986)  Watching Egyptians protest today is a sight I never thought I’d witness. Having studied urban protest in Egypt and Syria in the late Middle Ages, like other Arabs of my generation I had been beguiled by our political quietness, our seemingly unending, bottomless stoicism. I chose to work on ...

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Egypt's Three Revolutions: The Force of History behind this Popular Uprising

When the Egyptian Uprising of 2011 began, we heard media pundits, friends, and colleagues milling about in search of apt metaphors to describe the mass protests and revolution in Egypt. In so far as “history” was mobilized in these discussions, it was generally as repetition or analogy. Hence: the Berlin Wall; Tiananmen Square; the first Palestinian Intifada; the Iranian Revolution; the Paris Commune; and the French Revolution, as well as Egypt’s own 1919 and 1952 revolutions. But do these vivid ...

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Preparing Tomorrow's History Lessons

Last night, my husband Michael Kennedy and I wrote an essay for Jadaliyya suggesting that the Polish Round Tables of 1989 might present a model for those hoping to move the Tahrir protest movements forward. He is an academic who works on Central and Eastern Europe, I on the Middle East. The difference in our world regions, I often tell him, is in your part of the world, the US supports protest movements; in my part of the world, the US stands in their way. I’d hoped Egypt’s January 25 movement would be ...

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U.S. Foreign Policy and the Democratic Uprising in Egypt

At least thirteen pro-democracy protesters have been killed and hundreds injured in clashes with pro-Mubarak mobs in and around Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo. The attacks began on Wednesday when hundreds of Mubarak’s supporters, some of them on horses and camels, charged the pro-democracy protesters in an attempt to take control of the area. The assault escalated in the early hours of Thursday when Mubarak’s mob opened fire on their opponents. Since then, the mob has continued to use violence and ...

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Looking to Egypt, Again

I grew up hearing about Egypt.  The Egypt of those stories, woven inextricably into the memories of my father and his brothers and sisters, was always one of strength, inspiration, beauty and steadfastness. It was the Egypt of Nasser and Um Kulthoum, of Arab Nationalism and of the Bandung Conference. It was the Egypt of solidarity with Palestine. As a child in Beirut, that place seemed as close as the catch in my father’s voice when he would talk about hearing Nasser on the radio. As I grew older, I ...

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Encouraging the Outcome through Silence

On Tuesday February 1st, the 82-year old Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt with a hammer-swinging fist since 1981, announced that he would not run in September’s presidential election. He also pledged to “die on Egyptian soil,” sending the message that he would be retiring in Egypt, not into exile. The demonstrators rejected his belated concession. The protesters’ demands have not wavered since the beginning of the uprising. They want an end to Mubarak’s tenure and have signaled that military generals ...

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The "Anderson Cooper Effect" on American TV Reporting from Cairo (Updated Feb 3)

UPDATE BELOW. On February 2, CNN journalist Anderson Cooper was one of many victims of violence by Mubarakoids who turned Tahrir Square into a battle zone. Cooper was beaten by thugs, as were other members of his crew. A BBC crew was arrested, blindfolded and taken into custody for several hours before being released. MSNBC’s Richard Engel and his NBC colleague Brian Williams reported throughout the night from a vantage point where they could see, film and comment on the violence that has engulfed what, ...

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Military and Intelligence at Egypt's Democratic Dawn

[Mozn sent this post an hour ago from Egypt. 4 am Cairo time; 9 pm Washington DC time] If the military is ever to be a legitimate national force, it must side with the protesters against Mubarak’s thugs and the police. These thugs have been ridiculously and mistakenly labeled by right-wing media as “pro-Mubarak demonstrators. This critical junction in the Egyptian Uprising when is the Egyptian Army’s moment of truth. As thousands of unarmed demonstrators are tortured, trampled, firebombed and ...

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Egypt on the Brink: The Arab World at a Tipping Point?

Hosni Mubarak is still President of Egypt but his days in power are numbered. There will be no Mubarak dynasty either. The authoritarian order in Egypt and throughout the Arab world has been profoundly shaken. The ousting of Ben Ali in Tunisia, a remarkable event in itself, now appears to have been the trigger for a far broader upheaval that is shaking regimes across the region.   Since Muhammad Bouazizi set himself alight in Tunisia on December 17, self-immolations have taken ...

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Egypt and the Future of the Corporate Grid

Many analysts have been commenting on the broader significance of the astonishing and awe-inspiring events that have swept Egypt by storm over the past six days. From Tunisia to Yemen, the Arab world is in open revolt against the sclerotic, corrupt and vicious dictatorships that have held power with the tacit support of the US and EU for decades. The status quo in the region – in the form of received wisdom about ‘the Arab street’, the Islamist ‘menace’ and business-as-usual in the corridors of corporate ...

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The Poetry of Revolt

[This post was selected as one of three winners in Three Quarks Daily Arts & Literature Prize] It is truly inspiring to see the bravery of Egyptians as they rise up to end the criminal rule of Hosni Mubarak. It is especially inspiring to remember that what is happening is the culmination of years of work by activists from a spectrum of pro-democracy movements, human rights groups, labor unions, and civil society organizations. In 2004, when Kefaya began their first public demonstrations, the ...

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