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Continuity and Change in Revolutionary North Africa: New Journal Issue

January 16, 2015


Were the Egyptian uprisings a revolution or just regime change? Is there genuine transformation or has the deep state re-emerged fully intact and in charge?

The latest issue of the British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies has a special issue on Continuity and change before and after the Arab uprisings in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt.”

Arguing that few studies have looked at the North African protest movements in terms of the relationships between continuity and change, the authors in this special issue seek to amend this lacunae.

Six of the ten articles in this new issue refer, at least comparatively, with Egypt (while there are two articles that focus specifically on Morocco, and one on Tunisa, there are oddly no studies specifically focused on Egypt).

Here are the abstracts:

Rivetti, Paola. 2015. Continuity and Change before and after the Uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco: Regime Reconfiguration and Policymaking in North Africa. British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 42(1): 1-11

While the scholarship on the Arab uprisings is increasingly complex and intellectually refined, this special issue considers an aspect that so far has failed to attract sustained scholarly attention, namely continuity and change. This introduction provides the framework underpinning the special issue as a whole and discusses all the articles composing it, while elaborating on the scientific contribution that the examination of continuity and change before and after the uprisings can make to our understanding of politics in the region.

Read more…

On Not Televising The Revolution

January 14, 2015

The importance of media–both “traditional broadcast” and new media–in the Egyptian revolution and other revolutionary activities of the last four years is often framed as having refuted Gil Scott-Heron’s performance poem, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.”

But it doesn’t. Not really.

A friend recently sent me a short article about Scott-Heron which led me to actually listen to his performance of the poem for the first time in years.

“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” is not about the technology, but about content. It was about what was on television in the 1960s and 1970s as the Civil Rights movement was getting underway.  It contrasts the commodified worlds of desire, and the pablum of television shows–including supposedly “ground breaking” shows like Julia–with the idea of struggle and sacrifice.

In other words, the revolution is not a commercially-sponsored TV show you can switch on and off for your viewing pleasure. You have to live the revolution.

That’s not the message many of us are using Scott-Heron’s phrase to convey when we write about the Egyptian Revolution.

Catchphrase and Revolution

Before we had memes, we had catchphrases.

The idea of a catchphrase is that it arrests your attention, and is extremely memorable, while capturing some essential message of the discourse of which it is a part. Commercials have catch phrases, and do do poems.

Revolutions often get their catch phrases from poetry and protest songs.

And these catch phrases continue to do work in their original meaning. The boy in Ferguson who shouted “the revolution will not be televised” was, through this phrase, linking Ferguson to the larger Civil Rights movement.

Read more…

Top Ten Posts of 2014

January 6, 2015


1. Bibliography of the Egyptian Uprisings

The bibliography, now in excess of 750 references, was updated twice this year. A page, rather than technically a post, it remains the blog’s single most popular site for visitors.

2. Aliaa’s Naked Body: What Did It Matter Anyway?

The combination of rebellion and naked pictures turn out to be a strong draw. This post reviewed an article interpreting the public response to Aliaa al-Mahdy’s “naked pictures as protest” activities back in 2011. It received over 1080 visits in 2014.

3. Mark Allen Peterson

When I put my curriculum vitae on the blog, it was meant to be a way for people to check out the credentials (such as they are) of the person writing these blog posts about Egypt. To my surprise, it has become a site that people search for and visit. There were 895 visits last year.

4. Farha Ghannam on Masculinity in Egypt

More than 675 people checked out my review of Farha Ghannam’s new book Live and Die Like a Man: Gender Dynamics in Urban Egypt (Stanford, 2014), This extended ethnographic exploration of masculinity in the Middle East is a wonderful, readable account that will become a standard work on gender in Egypt (and is fully consonant with my discussion of masculinity in Connected in Cairo.

Read more…

2014 In Review

December 30, 2014

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report on how this blog was generated, followed, commented on and used over the past year.

I can’t imagine why anyone but me would be interested, but on the off chance that someone might, I share the link below..

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 29,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 11 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Muslim Brotherhood On-Line, In English

December 7, 2014
Ikhwanweb, says Soumia Bhadran, was a rhetorical tool through which the Muslim Brotherhood addressed Western audiences. The message has changed, but the desire to address Western audiences in English remains important.

Ikhwanweb, says Soumia Bardhan, was a rhetorical tool through which the Muslim Brotherhood addressed Western audiences. The message has changed, but the desire to address Western audiences in English remains important.

What was the point of Ikhwanweb, the Muslim Brotherhood’s official English-language web site?

The Muslim Brotherhood operates pretty much entirely in Arabic. The Brotherhood already had an Arabic web site. So why offer a web site in English?

Obviously, Ikhwanweb is designed to address different audiences than the MBs main web site. Who was this audience and what did the MB want to say to it through Ikhwanweb?

Those are the questions addressed by an article in the latest issue of the Digest of Middle East Studies (DOMES).

“Egypt, Islamists, and the Internet: The Case of the Muslim Brotherhood and Its Rhetoric of Dialectics in Ikhwanweb” by Soumia Bardhan analyzes the rhetoric of the Muslim Brotherhood on Ikhwanweb between 2005 and 2010.

Based on her analysis, Bardhan argues that Ikhwanweb sought to address Western societies–and especially the US:

Read more…

Was The Egyptian Revolution Really Revolutionary?

November 4, 2014
Was the "Arab Spring" truly revolutionary? That's a question posed in this slim new book out from Berghahn Books.

Was the “Arab Spring” truly revolutionary? That’s a question posed in this slim new book out from Berghahn Books.

In his introduction to the new book The Arab Spring: Uprisings, Powers, Interventions  (Berghahn 2014), author and editor Kjetil Fosshagen poses two key questions:

  • Were the Arab revolutions truly revolutionary?
  • Is there any evidence of coherent structural social forces that can be theorized and explicated to explain the many events collectively labeled “the Arab Spring”?

Fosshagen’s answer to the first question is clearly “no,” and his reasons for saying no are based on his “yes” to the second question.

He sees the Arab Spring as offering significant parallels with Europe’s 1848 “Spring of Nations,” uprisings which began as popular revolts but ended with an aristocracy of the financial and industrial elites and, ultimately, the emperorship of Napoleon III.

And just as Marx analyzed these events in his classic essay “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte,” so Fosshagen believes the early successes and (what he sees as) the ultimate failures of the Arab Spring can be understood through a classic analysis of relations of production. Read more…


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