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Underground Music and the Tunisian Revolution

April 30, 2012

This blog is about Egypt but very occasionally I stray from the main topic to discuss issues related to the Arab uprisings outside of Egypt. This is one of those times.

Underground Music and the Tunisian Revolution is the final project by Alex Underwood as his Departmental Honors project in anthropology, supervised by yours truly, and created in conjunction with his participation in the Altman Undergraduate Fellows Programs here at Miami University.

This is essentially a processual analysis, drawing on the work of Mary Douglas and Victor Turner, arguing that Ma’aluf, Rai and Hip-Hop in Tunisia all emerged as hybrid forms of music that have undergone similar cycles of expressing popular resistance against political domination, then gradually being absorbed into the social structure, requiring the emergence of a new form of resistant music.

In each case, the historical context, the nature of the hybrid influences, the extent to which the resistant potential of the music was realized, and the extent to which the music was mainstreamed has been different. It’s a very interesting argument.

What’s also cool is the way Alex articulates his argument in multimedia. The main argument is expressed in a self-guided presentation created using Prezi, allowing viewers to read, view and listen to music and (very brief) analytical texts. For those wanting more information than can be expressed in the bullet-point format of the presentation, he has included links to articles on external web sites, including a WordPress blog on Tunisian music he wrote in conjunction with this course. Finally, the presentation culminates in a 7-minute video, also available on YouTube, that summarizes the entire argument without jargon (and which was, essentially, the final project for the Altman Fellow part of the course).

Here’s the video:

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