For our August 2018 NEWTON bouquet, we chose to focus on different modes of artistic expression in the Middle East, as it is crucial to recognize the deep and abiding connection between art and politics in the region. Literature, art, music, and film (as well as other creative mediums) are often utilized by individuals looking to express or convey a political or social message in constrained political environments where blatant political speech is discouraged or suppressed. In other cases, art is used by official state actors or institutions to foster or reenforce preferential power-structures and/or favorable political agendas.
1) Ella Shohat, Israeli Cinema: East/West and the Politics of Representation
“The book treats cinema as constitutive in the invention of the nation and looks at the myriad and proliferating Zionist representations of the land and the people in the first hundred years of cinematic production in Palestine.”
2) Mervat Hatem, Literature, Gender, and Nation-Building in Nineteenth-Century Egypt
“I wondered if a fuller investigation of Taymur’s life and work would provide us with a better understanding of the entirety of her life and, more importantly, an appreciation of her work that entitled her to the status of one of the prominent writers during this important period of Egyptian history.”
3) Farzaneh Milani, Words, Not Swords: Iranian Women Writers and the Freedom of Movement
“It took me years to realize that physical confinement—not the veil—was the foundation of women`s subordination in Iranian society and the source of their literary quasi-invisibility.”
4) Eyad Houssami, Doomed by Hope: Essays on Arab Theatre
“Because theater can be dangerous and transformative, governments—authoritarian, oligarchical, and military regimes—have laid a siege around theater in the Arab Middle East, reining it in to maintain the status quo."
5) Samuel England, Medieval Empires and the Culture of Competition: Literary Duels at Islamic and Christian Courts
“I arrived at the conclusion that a great many of these moments of insult, coercion, and self-promotion advanced larger imperial goals that the authors (who generally also held high political posts) had in mind.”
6) Sunaina Maira, Jil Oslo: Palestinian Hip Hop, Youth Culture, and the Youth Movement
“It became clear to me after talking to these young activists, and to Palestinian rappers, that their protests and cultural production expressed a call for an alternative political language at a moment when it seemed that political vocabularies had been exhausted and when political skepticism and fatigue has been pervasive in Palestine.”
7) Mohammad Mehdi Khorrami, Literary Subterfuge and Contemporary Persian Fiction: Who Writes Iran?
“The main focus of this book is to identify the major directions of Persian modernist fiction and their formation processes.”
8) Najat Rahman, In the Wake of the Poetic: Palestinian Artists after Darwish
“I argue that Palestinian art, local and diasporic, articulates an aesthetic founded on loss, dispersion, dispossession, and transformation.”
9) Hisham Aidi, Rebel Music: Race, Empire, and the New Muslim Youth Culture
“And then of course with the post-9/11 crackdown on Muslim communities in the US and Europe—and New York saw a great deal of that—I became interested in how Muslim youth were responding to the range of punitive policies they were facing.”
10) Christiane Gruber and Sune Haugbolle, Visual Culture in the Modern Middle East
“I think this publication takes important steps towards viewing mass media not just as the realm where collective ideas are negotiated, but also where aesthetic and emotional registers are worked out, and where a politics of everyday life connects individual and collective norms.”