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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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Why Al-Jazeera America Never Gained Traction

November 28, 2017

Al Jazeera America TV“Can Al Jazeera English leverage its ‘Egypt moment’ into an American audience?”

That question was asked back in 2011 by William Youmans and Katie Brown in a 2011 article in Arab Media & Society.

The answer was no.

Al-Jazeera America, possibly the most ambitious attempt in history by a non-Western network to broadcast to US audiences, was shut down in April 2016.

It was a shame. I loved Al-Jazeera America (although, like many, I wished it had had more of an on-line presence).

I also love Al Jazeera–although not as much as I used to–and I am fascinated and sorry to find it at the center of the current Saudi-Qatar crisis. With the potential closing of Al Jazeera a reality, I was interested to see a new article about Al Jazeera America in the journal Global Media and Communication.

Entitled “Counter-hegemonic contra-flow and the Al Jazeera America fiasco: A social network analysis of Al Jazeera America’s Twitter users,” this research by Tal Samuel-Azran and Tsahi Hayat offers some interesting additional evidence as to why someone like me was likely to watch it, but most others weren’t.

Samuel-Azran and Hayat analyzed the Twitter following on Al Jazeera America’s social media. Their social network analysis revealed that 42 per cent of Al Jazeera America’s followers did not follow any other US news outlet. Most of the remaining 58 per cent followed stations the researchers identified as having a “liberal” stance.

The findings offer no surprises. They merely offer additional evidence that most mainstream US news consumers were reluctant to watch–or follow–Al Jazeera America because they were pre-disposed to find it biased and alien.

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Visual Anthropology Of The Egyptian Revolution (And Beyond)

October 12, 2017
Visual anthropology of the revolution

A special issue of the journal Visual Anthropology brings together seven scholars exploring visual aspects of political contestation in the Middle East, especially the Arab Spring.


The issue contains four articles that address Egypt:

  1. an introduction by editors Mark Westmoreland (Leiden University) and and Diana K. Allan (McGill),
  2. Westmoreland’s “Street Scenes: The Politics of Revolutionary Video in Egypt” 
  3. “’Film!’—The Arab Revolutions and the Filmmaker as Amanuensis” by the Belgian filmmaker Peter Snowden, and
  4. an account of the organization by Alisa Liebow (University of Sussex)

In addition, the collection includes an essay by Peter Limbrick about John Greyson’s film 14.3 Seconds which describes and explores the destruction of Iraqi film archives, “Thinking with X-rays: Investigating the Politics of Visibility through the Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid’s Photography Collection” by Zeynep Devrim Gürsel, Diana K. Allan’s “Watching Photos in Shatila: Visualizing Politics in the 2011 March of Return” and “Touched from Below: On Drones, Screens and Navigation” by Anjali Nath.

Hopefully I will find time to review each of these articles separately. In the meantime, here are the abstracts:

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What Would A Muslim Brotherhood State Have Looked Like?

August 25, 2017

Morsi_SupportersIt’s one of the greatest controversies of the revolution: What would the state overseen by Egypt’s President Morsi have looked like if he had not been ousted in a popularly-supported military coup?

The Muslim Brothers claimed that they were committed to a secular state and civil government. Many Egyptians, perhaps the majority, feared that once they had established control, the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government would attempt to fulfill the original vision of the movement’s founder, Hassan al-Basri: to abolish the geographic borders of the country and impose its interpretation of the rules of Islam on Egypt, and – in due course – on the region, and the world as a whole.

In a new article entitled “The Egyptian Muslim Brothers’ ideal state model: a religious state – out; a civil state – in”, published in the journal Middle Eastern Studies, an argument is made that although the Muslim Brotherhood articulated an Islamic concept of a civil society, it was never fully committed to that vision.

Author Limon Lavie (of The Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem) argues that the concept of civil state was useful to the Brotherhood in its efforts to secure a strong place in the Egyptian public sphere, but widespread differences of commitment to that vision within the movement may have been one of the things that led to its political ouster.

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