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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.

Read more…

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.

Read more…

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

Read more…

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.

Read more…

Wasta, Work and Corruption in Transnational Business

April 14, 2014
When does using your social relations in management become "corruption? Photo Credit: Interact Egypt - Play Innovation via Compfight cc

Thinking about wasta: When does using your social relations in management become “corruption”? Photo Credit: Interact Egypt – Play Innovation via Compfight cc

I recently read an article on wasta and “corruption” in international business that got me thinking about some of the problems of framing complex cultural ideas in overly simplified ways.

In my Intercultural Relations class, I offer a detailed case study of a businessman (whom I will call Girgis since that’s what I call him in another context in Chapter Six of Connected In Cairo).

Girgis worked for a company that insisted as part of their global corporate culture that there be no “corruption.” Six years after opening its office in Egypt, they continued to be plagued by behaviors they understood to be “corrupt.”

A particular problem seemed to be nepotism. Every time an Egyptian manager was hired, he began filling new slots in the company with relatives, and the children of friends. This was contrary to corporate policy and so these managers had to be rotated out or fired.

The company thought it had found a solution in Girgis.

Born in Egypt, Girgis had come to the U.S. for college, married an American woman and stayed to complete an MBA, then joined the company. He had risen through the ranks with stellar performance evaluations, and was currently a branch manager in New York state. Fluent in Arabic as well as English, cosmopolitan and equally at home in the US and the Middle East, the company thought he would be the solution to their problem.

Yet within his first year, the regional supervisor discovered that Girgis had appointed a cousin with little prior experience to an important management position without doing a open search. When confronted, Girgis told his supervisor, “In the U.S., this would be corruption. Here, it’s wasta.” When they pressed him further, Girgis became evasive and asked if they wanted his resignation.

Read more…

Egyptian Bibliography Updated

April 11, 2014
Photo Credit: risaikeda via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: risaikeda via Compfight cc

The Bibliography resource on the Egyptian uprisings has been updated.

The bibliography now includes over 675 references.

Updates include articles from such journals as Pragmatics, Feminist StudiesFeminist Media StudiesThird World Quarterly, Media, Culture and SocietyJournal of Communication Inquiryand many others.

It also now includes books like Farhad Khosrokhavar’s The New Arab Revolutions That Shook the World, Al-Zubaidi and Cassel’s Diaries of an Unfinished Revolution, Are Knudsen and Basem Ezbidi’s Popular Protest in the New Middle East, Paul Gerbaudo’s Tweets and the Streets, and Manuel Castell’s Networks of Outrage and Hope.

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