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. So far these interviews include covering COVID-19 in Gaza with Issam A. Adwan and Salam Khashan
, in Dublin (Ireland) with John Reynolds
, in Cairo (Egypt) with Amr Adly
, in Tehran (Iran) with Alex Shams and Hoda Katebi
, on incarceration in Iran with Golnar Nikpour
, in San Francisco (United States) with Jessica Malaty Rivera
, in Doha (Qatar) and the Arabian Peninsula with Ahmad Dallal
, Vancouver (Canada) with Adel Iskandar
, Punishment in Palestine with Sahar Francis and Dana Farraj
, Berlin (Germany) with Edna Bonhomme
, and Anti-Asian Racism with Connie Wun
. Do stay tuned to follow updates about COVID-19 from around the world through our incredible interlocutors at Status الوضع.
Yet before COVID-19 reset the world's news agendas and shifted public attention, we have spent months preparing a rich collection of interviews for this very special issues. The conditions and circumstances that preceded COVID-19 as described by the many interlocutors we spoke to serve as a critical backdrop against which the virus' impact should be examined and understood. Whether it is in Gaza and Syrian refugee camps or in countries like Iran, Egypt, or Turkey, socioeconomic and political circumstances inform how authorities, political elite, government infrastructure, state bureaucracy, civil society, and grassroots community organizing have responded and the efficacy of their efforts. It is important to recognize that while COVID-19 has shifted our attention away from other pressing matters in our respective communities, it may not have shifted the balance of power or erased vulnerability, it may have further exacerbated aggravated situations while simultaneously empowered the precarious in other situations. To understand these changes it is critical to expansively explore not just the virus and its repercussions, but the backdrop that precedes its advent.
So what do we have for you in this installment of Status الوضع?
The past few months have been remarkably dynamic across many countries in the MENA region with an eruption of revolutionary protest from Algeria to Lebanon to Iraq and across the world in Hong Kong, Chile and elsewhere. Our interviews with scholar and Iraqi writer Sinan Anton and Iraqi-Canadian artist and filmmaker Dima Yassine
tighten the lens on Iraq where the October revolution has shifted all considerations in the country and revived hope after almost two decades of occupation, civil war, corruption, and foreign interference. And in neighboring Iran, itself implicated in the violence across its borders, mass protests shook the government's confidence and led to widespread incarceration. Ziad Abu-Rish speaks to Status الوضع about the Lebanese economic crisis
and how it precipitated the revolutionary mobilizations of 2019. On Lebanon's uprising of 2019, we have collected and collated along with our partners in Beirut--the Asfari Institute at AUB--through their platform Active Arab Voices, a very large collection of interviews, articles, original opinion pieces and other reflections on the landmark protest movement
, including a brief intervention from Melhem Khalaf, an independent candidate who became the head of the Beirut Bar Association in 2019
and was deeply committed to the revolutionary fervor of that period. We also hear from Peyman Jafari about the situation in the country in light of significant social unrest which served as a contextual precursor to the advent of COVID-19, with widespread implications for Iranians and the government. The virus has claimed many thousands of lives including clergy and state officials. In line with the theme of protests and revolt against authoritarianism, the issue also features an interview with Alize Arican about her research on Turkish resistance against luxury developments and the displacement of many communities in Istanbul's Tarlabasi neighborhood.
One of the most popular programs on Status الوضع, "The Nerdiest Show on the Internet"
(a Quilting Point Production), is back with a new light-hearted episode of books received that features guests Hatim El-Hibri, Nadya Sbaiti, and Adel Iskandar and includes reviews of Pretty Liar: Television, Language, and Gender in Wartime Lebanon
(Natalie Khazaal), Shooting a Revolution: Visual Media and Warfare in Syria
(Donatella Della Ratta), The Arabic Print Revolution: Cultural Production and Mass Readership
(Ami Ayalon), Rock in a Hard Place: Music and Mayhem in the Middle East
(Orlando Crowcroft), Palestinian Cinema in the Days of Revolution
(Nadia Yaqub), An Unlikely Audience: Al-Jazeera's Struggle in America
(William Lafi Youmans), Arab Cinema: History and Cultural Identity
(Viola Shafik) and Mediating the Arab Uprisings
(Adel Iskandar & Bassam Haddad).
In the latest installment of "Jadaliyya Talks," another opportunity to deliberate with a writer about on of their works, we feature a discussion with Negar Razavi who describes the methodology and findings of her provocative and widely-read article "The Systemic Problem of 'Iran Expertise' in Washington.
Status الوضع also features both audio and video recordings of panels and lectures covering various relevant issues for our audiences. We are also thrilled to be showcasing the launch of Noura Erakat's new book Justice For Some: Law and the Question of Palestine
(Stanford) at a special panel at George Mason University featuring commentary from Richard Falk, Sherene Seikaly, and Shira Robinson. This issue also includes a panel from Northwestern University entitled "The Global Wave of Mass Protests"
organized by Danny Postel and featuring panelists Loubna El-Amine, Daniel Borzutsky, Kaveh Ehsani, William Hurst, and Shailja Sharma who covered revolts from Hong Kong to Chile, and from Lebanon to India. Another panel in this issue is one organized by Dina Matar at SOAS University of London featured Tarik Sabry, Omar al-Ghazzi, Helga Tawil-Souri, and Ramy Aly to address topic of a new book about Culture, Time and Publics in the Arab World: Media, Public Space and Temporality
(IB Tauris). The Keynote Speech given by Kecia Ali on how the politics of Islamic studies is gendered
from the 17th Annual Duke-UNC Middle East and Islamic Studies Graduate Student Conference can be listened to in this issue of Status. The issue also includes a lecture by Elizabeth Buckner entitled "Degrees of Dignity: Reforming Arab Education for the Global Era"
at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.
Our collaboration with Orient XXI and Jadaliyya continues to bear important fruits with this issue of Status الوضع in a new Critical Online Knowledge on the Middle East that features a panel from Sorbonne University
(Paris) moderated by Eric Verdeil on knowledge production and critical media featuring remarks from Bassam Haddad, Cihan Tekay, Alain Gresh, Muriam Haleh Davis, and Thomas Serres. Another interesting George Mason University panel featured in this issue of Status الوضع is part of our "Faculty Reports From Abroad" series on International Research
and includes talks by Mark Katz, Tonya Neaves, Ellen Beth Liapson, Mariely Lopez-Santana, Jo-Marie Burt, and Bassam Haddad. The topics covered in the panel included but were not limited to Brexit and the UK, the party system in Spain, justice advocacy in Central America, and Israeli land annexation. We are also delighted to be bringing Status الوضع followers a panel on the the US' militarized involvement in the region organized by The Forum on Arms Trade entitled "US Foreign Policy Moving Forward: Perspectives from the Middle East"
moderated by Linda Bishai with remarks from Omar Dahi, Jodi Vittori, and Samer Abboud.
In our efforts to highlight artistic and musical productions and discussions around such works through Status Beats, we feature in this issue an extraordinary concert by the Children of Adam Band
and a discussion about "Jazz, Blues, and the African American Muslim Experience" at George Mason University. Also from Status Beats, we go to Egypt where musician Huda Asfour interviews El Kontessa (Fajr Soliman)
, an electronic musician and visual street artist who reflects on her method and popularity. We also speak to multimedia artist Zeinab Saab about her journey with texture, language and the diasporic experience
in her work. Filmmaker and Creative Director at Just Vision Julia Bacha is interviewed in this issue on her film Naila and the Uprising
and the formative power of the women's movement in the first Palestinian Intifada.
In another compelling feature, this issue includes a complex audio documentary by Omar Shanti on Raï as a performance of identity, nationalism, and transgression
. Our collaboration with the Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship at the American University of Beirut (AUB) continues with some stellar program in Lebanon and beyond. In this issue, we are delighted to feature an interview with Syrian fine artist Reem Yassouf (Arabic) who discusses her work
, the war, and the intersections of conflict and artistic expression and how death inspires the birth of new works. Another interview is with Fawaz Baker, the celebrated composer and oud player from Aleppo, Syria,
who discusses his musical inspiration, roots, identity, and commitment to educate future generations of classical musicians.
In our current moment, as physical distancing becomes the strategy most employed by states around the world to reduce the chance of infection with COVID-19, internet use has since skyrocketed everywhere with more people using digital platforms for communication, work, treatment, and leisure. The explosion of information generation and circulation online during these weeks, it also resulting in publics that are increasingly perplexed by the absence of news verification, the mushrooming of digital panic and anxiety, and the remarkable currency of misinformation. At Status الوضع, we are committed to bringing forth discussions and debates that are characteristically nuances, specific, and mindful of the responsibility to inform public debate. Sometimes this means our interviews are protracted, but they are decidedly and responsibly non-alarmist. This is an important departure from the modes of information production in the mainstream media. We are also interested in the complex intersections between our communities and the many challenges they face in this predicament. In these uncertain times, we renew our commitment to you to continue to bring forth intersectional sophisticated and empathetic works that have justice at their core. This issue very much embodies this as it interweaves public health, revolution, gender equality, decolonization, and many other interwoven themes. And while this issue is likely one of our most complex and cross-cutting, it is but a small contribution to what Status الوضع has now become--one of the largest free databases of independently produced audio interviews with thinkers on and about the Middle East and North Africa!
At a time of self-isolation, distancing, and quarantine, we are hopeful that you will find the hundreds of hours of interviews in this database valuable and that this remarkable repository of knowledge is used to its utmost capacity to educate, inform, and, when possible, to entertain about the region.
Stay safe, Stay strong, and Stay Tuned