Author Archives: Justin Stearns

Bringing the Middle East into the American Racial Landscape

Over at MERIP, an interesting piece by Mustapha Bayoumi just appeared, in which he takes a look at race in a post 9/11, post Obama era America. The piece starts off with an amusing quote from this Dean Obeidallah skit, but then starts to dig deeper into recent pop culture representations of Arabs in American media. At the heart of the piece is the question of how African Americans and Arab American/Muslims are being represented in mainstream American culture and what work these racial identities are doing when performed in front of a white audience. Very interesting piece, and as always, would love to know what any of you think.

Middle East Alliance

Well, it looks like people out there are reading the blog. I was recently contacted by Matt Trevithick, who runs the Middle East Alliance out of the American University in Iraq. The website provides an overview on the Middle Eastern blogosphere, with updates on stories that Matt thinks are especially interesting. The portal of the website contains a nice interface that allows you on to click on individual countries to see what bloggers there have been posting recently. While Matt noted in his email to me that target audience is largely the foreign policy crowd in DC, the site is definitely useful for the rest of us as well. Thanks Matt! Looks like a great site. My only suggestion would be to add blogs in Arabic, Hebrew, Persian and Turkish, but maybe that will come in time . .

Judith Butler in Israel

I am enjoying reading the conversation between Ali and Sam about Syria, but don’t have anything to add to it myself. I would, however, like to point to this recent interview in Haaretz with cultural theorist and philosopher Judith Butler. Butler, whose work I am not personally familiar with though I know its reputation and influence, has written foundational works on gender and society in the past decades (her work was very influential on Saba Mahmood, for those of you who have read Politics of Piety). She is also a liberal American Jew who teaches at Berkeley. What is of interest here are especially her comments on how she understands the BDS movement in America, and her take on the one-state, two-state debate. If anyone has time to read the whole piece, I’d be interested to know what they think.

The Future of Egypt: ElBaradei?

My computer died this week, so I’m operating from backup and scrambling to keep up. But this story did grab my attention. The English typing Egyptian blogosphere (here’s looking at you Arabist and Beheyya) have both been paying close attention to the return of Muhammad ElBaradei to Egypt and to his nascent campaign for presidency. I’ll leave it to those of you who actually know something about Egyptian politics to explain the details of why this is interesting, but a few things strike even me right off the bat: Egyptian politics has been caught in a rather stale face-off between Mubarak’s military absolutist rule and the (un)official opposition of the Muslim Brotherhood. But Mubarak is getting on and while there is speculation about him trying to get his son to get the president gig, last I checked there was also simply a great amount of uncertainty about what is going to happen when he leaves the stage. Until now, he has been quite adept at undermining potential opposition movements and candidates (after all, Egypt is nominally a democracy) but ElBaradei presents a special challenge for the Mubarak regime. ElBaradei has street cred not only in Egypt but also internationally due to his 12 year tenure heading the IAEA, during which he and the organization won the Nobel Peace Prize (for Wikipedia’s take on the man see here), and did a pretty good job of not letting himself be used politically in the case of Iran and its nuclear aspirations. Of course, the US, especially under Bush, was not happy with ElBaradei as he didn’t give them what they wanted in terms of isolating Iran, and so I’m not sure what Obama’s administration is going to do, if anything, in terms of working behind the scenes to help ensure that Egyptians actually get a reasonably fair election in 2011.

Green Zone: Guilty Pleasure Post

Ok, I admit that after a long day of reading about Islam in the seventh century, or developments in Christology in eighth century Christian Iberia, a little Hollywood eye-candy begins to look attractive to me. What can I say? After all, I enjoyed The Kingdom when I watched it, even though it wasn’t a very good film at all. More recently, I watched and really liked The Hurt Locker—the Oscar buzz is much deserved in my book, despite the accusations, probably justified, that it is inaccurate in many of its details.
So, I was tickled to see over at Ted Swedenborg’s blog (for those of you who don’t know his work, he has written important pieces on the social and cultural politics of music in the Middle East, as well as on Palestine in the 1930s) that Paul Greengrass has made a fictional version of Imperial Life in the Emerald City entitled Green Zone, starring Matt Damon. Guilty Pleasure indeed. Note that Swedenborg is primarily interested in the fashion statement Damon is making by sporting a kufiya.

Building Tolerance on Cemeteries

Ok, I’ll stop after this post for the next while, but this is just too crazy. There are some times when reality seems to move beyond irony into the grotesque. The Simon Wiesenthal Center is currently moving forth with building a Museum of Tolerance on a 12th century Palestinian cemetery in Jerusalem. For an interview with Rashid Khalidi, acclaimed professor at Columbia, who has ancestors buried in this cemetery see Democracy Now here. The story has been ongoing since 2004, and most recently has been in the press in several sources, including at the Guardian, here.

Palestinian Documentary from 1974

One of the less told stories regarding the effects of Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon was that a great deal of Palestinian material culture and artistic production, including early Palestinian films, was lost when the IDF drove the PLO from Beirut (background on this can be found here). Only a few copies of some of these early Palestinian films remain today. I stumbled upon one of them: Mustafa Abu Ali’s Laysa lahum Wujud, which took its title from Golda Meir’s infamous remark that the Palestinians didn’t exist. The entire film, or what is left of it, is online and can be found here. It is striking to watch, a mixture of documentary and what I take to be (though I could be wrong) somewhat staged sequences surrounding quite real footage of Israel’s bombing of the Nabatiya refugee camp in 1974.