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Guerilla Graffiti: Sabotaging Homeland

March 24, 2018

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Trickster’s Path

March 18, 2018

TawfikTrickster(1)If one tries to consider Tawfiq ‘Ukasha as a counterreactionary populist demagogue, (as do the few journalists and political scientists who mention him at all), the bizarre rises and falls of his career are hard to explain. Ultimately he falls foul of every social movement in Egypt, even the returning military regime he once advocated for.

But if one considers him a trickster, as Walter Armbrust suggests, his volatile rises and falls, about-faces and self-reinventions make more sense.

Last May (2017), ‘Ukasha was fined EGP 5,000 and sentenced to one year in prison forging his PhD degree on official electoral documents. It turns out that the university he claimed to have gotten his degree from does not, in fact, exist.

Nobody would have noticed the discrepancy if ‘Ukasha, as an MP from Daqahlia, had not already drawn attention to himself by violating a longtime parliamentary boycott of Israel by inviting Israeli ambassador Haim Koren for a meal at his residence in Daqahlia. According to Egypt Independent:

Okasha said that he wanted to discuss various important issues with the Israeli diplomat, including the issue of Palestine and negotiations over Ethiopia’s controversial Renaissance Dam project.

Tricksters in myth are loutish, puffed up with boasts and lies, ravenous for foolery. They are at once gods and animals, defying structural order and social logic. If there are rules, ‘Ukasha has to challenge them, cross the boundaries, push the borders because that’s what tricksters do.

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Morsi Must Die

March 15, 2018

Morsi Must DieThere seems to be one thing that Egyptian dictator as-Sisi and ISIL agree on: Mohammed Morsi must die.

ISIS was the first to voice this position, in a May 2014 video by spokesperson Abu Muhammad al-‘Adnani, who called the imprisoned former president “a tyrant apostate” because he ordered security forces to put down “monotheists” in the Sinai during his short-lived presidency. ISIS advocated retribution against him.

A year later in a Cairo courtroom, an Egyptian judge sentenced over one hundred Muslim Brother leaders, including Morsi, to death.

This is the starting place for a fascinating essay on the dilemmas facing the Muslim Brotherhood in post-revolutionary Egypt (as well as Islamists in other “Arab Spring” states) by Abdullah Al-Arian, assistant professor of history at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar.

Between Terror and Tyranny: Political Islam in the Shadow of the Arab Uprisings” was published on line December 30, 2015 and is available at this link:

So…Is There A Global Occusphere?

March 12, 2018

OCCUSPHEREThe Occusphere.

That’s the term given by Tod Moore of the University of Newcastle in Australia to the “totality of Occupy-inspired events” in his article “The transformation of the Occusphere” in Social Identities: Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture(23:6)

Moore dates his account of the Occusphere from the  Occupy Wall Street protest encampment in New York during September and November 2011. But that Occupy movement had predecessors, notably the occupation of Tahrir Square in January and February 2011.

So is the Occusphere limited to the American Occupy movement? Or is it reasonable to speak of a global Occusphere that would encompass Tahrir Square among others?

Or is this Occusphere just a smaller assemblage within a larger sphere of activity we might call, according to Ramon Feenstra of Jaume I University in Spain, “global civil society”?

Feenstra is the author of an essay in the Journal of Civil Society in which he bemoans the fact that many contemporary authors do not want to recognize the existence of an emergent global Civil Society, nor of the legitimacy of the concept.

And yet, he writes,

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Making the Enemy…Or Not

March 8, 2018

enemyAt the end of 2013, the Muslim Brotherhood had gone from being an organization whose members held the Presidency and the largest number of seats in Parliament to an illegal terrorist organization.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt’s patron in the region, also declared the MB a terrorist organization and sought to build a regional coalition in the Gulf to counter this newly-constructed threat.

But not everyone wanted to play ball. While the UAE followed the lead of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, and Bahrain were reluctant to redefine the MB as terrorists.

This is the fascinating story described and analyzed by May Darwich of Durham University in her article “Creating the enemy, constructing the threat: the diffusion of repression against the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East” published in Democratization.

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Speaking Of Jinn…

March 4, 2018


I recently participated in a podcast about jinn, material culture and modernity and globalization on the Archaeological Fantasies podcast.

Here’s their episode notes:





Magical Jinn and where to Find them with Mark Allen Peterson

Today we talk with Dr. Mark Allen Peterson about the magical Jinn. Dr. Peterson tells us more about the ancient concept of Jinn, how that affect modern Arabic uses of Jinn, and how the views on Jinn are affected by Movies and Western tampering.

Archaeological Fantasies is a podcast in which Serra Zander and co-hosts Dr. Ken Feder and Dr. Jeb Card discuss popular beliefs about material culture and the historical record against mainstream archaeological explanation. Often they bring in a guest expert (i.e. me). It’s pretty laid back and funny, and usually educational as well.

On the episode in which I was the guest, we discussed what a jinn is and how it is different from the Western orientalist fantasy of the genie. I had to do some work to explain how a jinn isn’t really a ghost, or a demon but has some resonance with each, as well as how it is and isn’t like a fairy (in the medieval sense of fairies, not the Tinkerbell type).

We also talked about jinn and material culture, including how sorcerers use everything from knotted strings to elaborate rings to bind and control jinn, and the fact that such rings are now available on line. Our conclusion: either they are outrageous frauds or it is a (literally) damnably dangerous thing to sell!

We also discussed legends about how the Pharaohs bound jinn to guard their tombs, and the necessity, therefore, to have a sorcerer with a jinn at his command to release or defeat the guardian jinn. This segment of our discussion drew on two academic papers:

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Do Instagram And Flickr Shape the Art of the Revolution?

December 12, 2017

Frame ArtIs Instagram a significant factor in how Egyptian artists used street art to protest the revolution?

How about Flickr?

My sense, based on all the recent books and articles about street art in Cairo, is “no,” but I don’t have the data I need to support it.

I’m asking the question because I just read an article in Media, Culture & Society entitled “‘I’d Double Tap That!!’: street art, graffiti, and Instagram research” by Lachlan John MacDowall and Poppy de Souza. The authors explain that:

the production and consumption of forms of street art and graffiti are increasingly shaped by the architectures, protocols, and uses of Instagram

In other words, how one does street art is increasingly shaped by an awareness of how the people who see your art will share it based on its Instagrammability.

An article in Visual Culture by Axel 

Both of these articles fit in with the growing fascination of Western, and especially European media scholars with “mediatization,” this awareness that the practices of everyday life are increasingly being shaped by the integration of new media technologies into our lives. McDowell is at University of Melbourne, DeSouza is an Australian independent researcher, Philipps and Zerr are with Leibniz University Hannover, and Herder is at Radboud University Nijmegen.

I enjoyed both articles…


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