The Arab Studies Institute and its various branches have recently produced several projects. The following is a roundup of some of the critical content that ASI has put together in the past two months.
Announcing the Second Issue of the Middle East Studies Pedagogy Initiative (MESPI) Newsletter
The Middle East Studies Pedagogy Initiative (MESPI) is a curated interactive platform for Middle East studies resources, specifically tailored for the needs of teachers, researchers, and students. It is a one-stop-shop for course design on the macro level, lesson planning on the micro level, and for scholarship vis-a-vis specific topics, countries, and disciplines. The MESPI project strives to reorient the way educators and students research, learn, and teach the Middle East. This issue features such pieces as “Teaching the Middle East in the Middle East”, is an attempt to bring geography back into the conversation, put together by Nadia Sbaiti. In this installment, we connect with three Middle East history faculty about their teaching experience in the Middle East, providing insights and observations to how teaching the region differs when physically located in the Middle East. "Middle East Studies in the Time of COVID-19" by Ziad Abu-Rish is an attempt to lay out the challenges of teaching in the field of Middle Eastern Studies in the time and circumstances of COVID-19. "Pedagogy and Grades: The University of California is neither Public nor Elite" by Jack Davies is an analysis of the UC graduate student-led strikes and the way in which the universities' responses and focuses highlight what the priorities of such institutions are. In "Reflections on the Interconnectedness of Student Activism and Solidarity against the Corporate University", Kylie Broderick reflects on the struggles of student organizing and activism, specifically as it relates to working and living conditions under the university, it's money-minded agenda, and the necessity for cross-campus solidarity it generates.
Arab Studies Journal Announces Open Access Spring 2020 Issue: Editor’s Note, Table of Contents, & Download Link
This issue features a wealth of historical and contemporary insights on comedy, art, music, land, and labor. Carmen Gitre traces the vaudeville and comedy of the playwright Najib al-Rihani in early-twentieth-century Egypt. Reformers charged Rihani and his Everyman character, Kishkish Bey, with endangering the patriotic health of the newly independent nation. Gitre traces Rihani’s alternative moral and ethical vision of the nation, unfolding the Egyptiana theater as a shared liminal space of catharsis and imaginative transformation. Sarah Johnson takes us to mid-twentieth- century Iraq, where the work of artist Hafidh Druby married archeological practice with representational painting. Tracing Druby’s rise and fall as a pinnacle of art and theory, Johnson excavates blind spots in the history of modern Iraqi art, bringing to light multifaceted interpretations of modernity in Baghdad. Weaving performance ethnography, geography, and sound studies, Leila Tayeb explores post-Qaddafi Libya. She reveals how music is one of many quotidian sonic practices that produce militia power. Interrupting the conventional narration of Libya’s statelessness and its ostensibly bereft institutional landscape, Tayeb shows the audible and palpable ways that militias claim sovereignty. By detailing the dispossession of the villages of al-Kabri, al-Naher, Umm al-Faraj, and al-Tall in the western Galilee, Lily Eilan offers a new way to think about the Nakba. Reading mechanisms of negotiation, survival, and resistance to the Zionist state, Eilan illustrates a mode of transience in which Palestinians and Mizrahim accommodated, undermined, and exploited a new social order. The issue also features our stalwart book reviews section, anchored in an incisive review essay on Algeria.
The Arab Studies Institute's Open Access Resources for Teaching the Middle East
As teachers, students, and researchers limit their in-person contact, below are some open access resources in the form of online articles, audio interviews, and video segments to facilitate classroom learning and additional research on the Middle East and North Africa. We’ve curated a selection of our pedagogy content, specifically this on the topics of Uprisings; the making of modern Iran; gender; political Islam; infrastructure and vulnerability; and environment, climate change, health, and disease. We also provide links to e-books and journal articles that are available for free download.
Status/الوضع Issue 7.1 is Here!
This issue of Status الوضع comes at an extraordinary time in our contemporary history, not just as a community of scholars, activists, writers, and artists concerned with the circumstances facing the peoples of the Middle East and North Africa, but rather as human beings around the world coming to terms with our collective ecology, economy, and politics! As the threat and effects of the new COVID-19 virus spreads and ravages so many communities around the world, we are seeing an unprecedented global effort to curb its proliferation and minimize its effect. In addition to our usual programming in this issue, we have launched a new urgent video interview program called "Politics in the Time of Corona." It is our earnest attempt to ascertain and survey the widespread impact of COVID-19 and the measures taken to contain it across the world. The program, hosted by Bassam Haddad and Noura Erakat, is already in its 8th episode at the time of this launch with more episodes coming in the days and weeks ahead. The purpose behind these interviews is to showcase both the specificities and commonalities between the address of COVID-19 and governance across locales, geographies, political landscapes, cultural milieus and other conditions. Each episode brings us closer to a different locale in the world to provide reporting, analysis, and reflection from colleagues on the challenges and implications in their communities.
Environment in Context
Environment in Context is a podcast series produced by the Jadaliyya Environment Page Editors in order to address questions about the ways the environment operates as a factor and product of developments and history of the Middle East. The first episode, "Green Sukuk - The Future of Islamic Financing for Climate Change Adaptation", discusses the role of Islamic financing in the development of the global Green Bond industry. In June 2017, Malaysia was the first country in the world to issue a green sukuk in order to finance a solar power plant. Sukuk are asset-backed financial certificates that were developed over a millennium ago, which are compliant with the Islamic principle of shari'a. In the second episode, "Cement, War, and Toxicity: The Materialities of Displacement in Iraq", co-editors of Jadaliyya's Environment Page, Huma Gupta and Gabi Kirk, discussed with Kali Rubaii how ecologies of war have produced multiple waves of displacement and have intimately shaped the lives of displaced Iraqis through the materiality of cement.
Keep Your Eye On
Jadaliyya Launches New Environment Page
The Jadaliyya Environment Page is a forum for innovative, critical, and incisive analysis and reporting on environmental questions in the Middle East. It invites contributors and readers to rethink these questions by taking a broad stance on what counts as an environmental issue. Whereas environmental questions in the Middle East are usually framed in terms the security of water or oil, this page purposefully seeks out a wide array of sources and perspectives in examining important environmental issues on the ground and across the region. As curators of this Jadaliyya project, we want to provide a platform that brings together diverse perspectives including, and especially, from those living in the region, indigenous voices, and grassroots approaches. We aim to gather content from a variety of academic disciplines, activists, and others working on the ground. Too often, Euro-American international institutions and white Western voices dominate—and depoliticize—the conversation on the environment. In contradistinction, we argue that we cannot just talk about water as scarcity, but we must view water access as an environmental justice issue and a human right. Instead of approaching countries in the region as exceptionally oil-dependent, we consider the politics of fossil fuels, energy transition, and climate change mitigation to be a global terrain of struggle entailing the uneven transformation of economic activities, social life, infrastructures, and environments. Similarly, we cannot just talk about environmental issues in terms of rural development and nature reserves, but must also talk about environmental well-being in cities.
Engaging Syria Today
Over the past two years, Syria has largely dropped out of the mainstream news cycle. We notice this at Jadaliyya in the falloff of submissions and entries in our monthly media roundup covering developments in the country. The change is the result of several factors, chief among them the apparently diminishing chances that the regime would collapse or be defeated after December 2016, when Russian intervention significantly aided the regime in its efforts to take control of all of metropolitan Aleppo. Minor battles continued to be waged after that date, not least in efforts by both US forces and the Syrian Defense Forces to defeat ISIS in Raqqa. Yet, at this point the external allies of various opposition-oriented armed groups, notably Saudi Arabia and Qatar, started withdrawing from the conflict, opting instead to engage in an oddly recurring media war about the Syrian conflict and other sub-regional matters in the Arab Gulf. At the same time, coalitions that had been the source of considerable aid to armed opposition groups seem to have fallen by the wayside. As the country continues to smolder amid declining news coverage, the co-editors of our Syria Page (now with two new members) are inviting renewed critical engagement with current conditions in Syria. Prompted by recent developments, we aim to address specific aspects of Syria’s current predicament, hoping to stimulate further conversation and analysis on our page. This is by no means meant to be an exhaustive list that “takes stock” of everything that has happened recently in Syria. Nor is it meant to foreclose other areas of inquiry. The goal, rather, is to initiate an ongoing conversation, an effort to highlight some of the themes that we think cannot be ignored. Some of the rubrics end with questions, others have questions embedded throughout. Some are more declarative, others more open-ended. They reflect the diversity of views and styles of reasoning to be found at Jadaliyya. All are offered as provocations for evidence-based research and analysis. We ask interested authors to share their thoughts and submissions at syria@Jadaliyya.com.