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Explaining Why The Journalists Were Put Down in Egypt

July 9, 2014
Did Secretary Kerry fail to use US capital with Egypt in trying to free the Al-Jazeera journalists? Or is there very little capital to spend?

Did Secretary Kerry fail to use US capital with Egypt in trying to free the Al-Jazeera journalists? Or, as Andrea Teti argues, was there no capital to spend?

I’ve been fielding a lot of questions about the sentences handed down the other day against the Al-Jazeera journalists.

Most people seem to think that the absurdity of the sentences is a travesty of justice, and that Egypt should be responding to international outrage.

Others think that the US is squandering its influence, that the fact that Kerry walked hopefully out of a meeting with al-Sisi only to have the sentences handed down the next day, shows that

Now, I can just send people to read an essay by my friend Andrea Teti, director of the University of Aberdeen’s Centre for Global Security and Governance and senior fellow at the European Centre for International Affairs, whom I met in Oxford (UK) a couple years back.

Andrea points out

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Japanese Popular Culture In Egypt

July 6, 2014

BannerOne of the main things that led to the research that became Connected in Cairo was an interest in the different ways Japanese popular culture–especially, but not limited to Pokémon–was localized differently in Egypt and the US.

There’s a chapter on Pokémon in Connected in Cairo, and Pokémon appears as an analytical problem in the first and last chapters of my first book. I’ve written about Pokemon in Egypt as part of children’s worlds of consumption, and as a case study for understanding indexicality in media practices.

So, inevitably, there had to be a course. I taught  an anthropology class here at Miami University entitled “Pokémon: Global and Local Cultures” this summer. Here’s the course description:

This course is about global cultural flows. Using as our chief case study the movement of Japanese cultural materials—from Godzilla to Pokémon to sushi—across cultural borders, we will look at the movement of cultural forms through global contexts shaped by transportation systems, new information technologies, and the global capitalist economy. Students will learn to draw on concepts and methods from ethnography, practice theory and semiotics to explore how texts, games, toys, styles and other cultural forms are produced, circulated, appropriated, transformed and localized.

Please note: this was not a course on Japanese popular culture per se, about which I cannot teach authoritatively, but a course on global cultural flows, world systems and localization, with most of the case studies being drawn from Japanese popular culture.

Several of the lessons either focus on, or at least touch on, Japanese popular culture in the Middle East, especially Egypt, so I thought I’d share those lessons here:

Lesson One:

Cultural FlowsCulture is not static; it moves rapidly through the world, carried by human agents, communications and information media, and systems of exchange. As people encounter new cultural representations, practices and artifacts, they appropriate many of them, transform them, and adapt them for local use, integrating them into their local cultural repertoire.

http://prezi.com/nis9p0nziq5x/culture-flows/?html5=0

Lesson Three: Globalization

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“Happy” in Iraq

July 4, 2014

Here’s a brief addendum to my blog post on the “Pharrel Williams index” in the Middle East. I just learned about this new Happy video by Syrian refugees at Darasakran refugee camp in Erbil, Iraq.

Paranoia and Puppets in Post-Morsi Egypt

July 4, 2014
How do supporters of the ousted President Mohammed Morsi carry on their sinister conspiracy to undermine the Egyptian nation? Could it be through secret messages encoded in advertisements starring a yarn-haired puppet? Probably not--but how can we know for  sure...?

How do supporters of the ousted President Mohammed Morsi carry on their sinister conspiracy to undermine the Egyptian nation? Could it be through secret messages encoded in advertisements starring a yarn-haired puppet? Probably not–but how can we know for sure…?

I have blogged before about conspiracy theories in Egypt, but it looks as if I’ll be doing so more and more since conspiracy theories–particularly those about the Muslim Brotherhood and its foreign allies–have increasingly gone mainstream in Egypt.

One of the most interesting is the weird investigation at the beginning of this year into

Abla Fahita is a puppet character (who has her own Facebook page) who has appeared regularly on television over the past several years, primarily on YouTube but also on Egyptian television. She and her daughter Karkura interact with humans and other muppet-like characters in humor ranging from innocuous to satirical.

She also appears in advertisements. And therein lies a tale.

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Imagining the Egyptian Revolution

June 11, 2014
Three articles in the journal Postcolonial Studies ponder the revolutionary imagination. Photo Credit: Hossam el-Hamalawy حسام الحملاوي via Compfight cc

Three articles in the journal Postcolonial Studies ponder the revolutionary imagination. Photo Credit: Hossam el-Hamalawy حسام الحملاوي via Compfight cc

The latest issue of the interdisciplinary journal Postcolonial Studies features a special issue on “Imagining the Revolution”

Among articles on the revolutionary imagination China, and the American and British Occupy movements, are three articles on the revolution in Egypt.

The first article, “The utopian and dystopian functions of Tahrir Square” by May Telmissany, compares and contrasts two occupations of Tahrir, that of the original 18 days, and that of the one year anniversary.

The author argues that both the secular revolutionary project and the subsequent Islamist revolutionary project bore the seeds of their own subsequent failures, and these can be seen in the performances of the respective occupations of Tahrir Square.

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How Is The Egyptian Revolution Framed In The Iranian Press?

June 10, 2014
Source: Carnegie Endowment for World Peace.

Source: Carnegie Endowment for World Peace.

I am always interested in South-South intercultural relations–we read so little about them.

So it was with great pleasure I encountered this recent article by Rusi Jaspal of De Montfort University in the UK.

Analyzing two popular Iranian newspapers (albeit in English language dailies), he demonstrates how the newspapers frame the revolutions in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia (which Iran has officially supported) as:

  1. part of an Islamic awakening, and
  2. consistent with the principles of the Iranian revolution

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Taufiq ‘Ukasha: Exploiting Egypt’s Liminality for Fun and Profit

April 25, 2014
Tawfiq 'Ukasha: Military shill--or something more complex? Walter Armbrust suggests seeing him as a trickster figure at home in the ambiguity of a chaotic, changing society.

Tawfiq ‘Ukasha: Military shill–or something more complex? Walter Armbrust suggests seeing him as a trickster figure at home in the ambiguity of a chaotic, changing society.

While I have been following Bassem Youssef’s extraordinary career as an exploitation of the liminality of Egyptian society in the wake of the uprisings, Walter Armbrust has been writing in a similar vein about Taufiq ‘Ukasha (who you can find most easily in Internet searches transliterated as Tawfiq or Tawfik Okasha).

Taufiq ‘Ukasha is a former member of the deposed National Democratic Party who became a talk show host. He is the anchor (and possibly the owner?) of the satellite political-commentary channel Al Fara’een. co-hosts a popular TV show called “Egypt Today”.

In the days after the revolution, he emerged as a major supporter” of Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces ruling government (SCAF) against Islamists and the “revolutionary youth”  He was often called “Egypt’s Glenn Beck” for his unabashed nationalism and anti-Islamist rhetoric.

‘Ukasha is often credited with being the populizer–and perhaps the originator–of the claim that the US rigged the election of Muhammad Morsi, and supports the return of the MB government, which I’ve written about here and here

I just read a great article on Taufiq ‘Ukasha by Walter Armbrust in  Comparative Studies in Society and History entitled “The Trickster in Egypt‘s January 25th Revolution.”

Armbrust argues that we cannot completely understand ‘Ukasha’s influence if we see him as a mere shill for the military government. Rather, Armbrust says, he is a trickster figure.

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