Burning summers after the spring

Two new accounts of Syria and Egypt, the states that failed after their popular attempts at revolution.

burning-country-syrians-in-revolution-and-war-by

At what point did the revolution in Egypt go off the rails? This was the question my friends and I spent most of our time discussing in smoke-filled rooms in Cairo in the years following the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Islamists swept the elections; protests turned into clashes and massacres; jails filled with young men and women; an avuncular, menacing general took over. And the uprisings that had erupted in Syria, Yemen and Libya degenerated into brutal civil wars. Had it been a revolution after all? In July, Amnesty International reported on the Egyptian security forces’...

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Burning summers after the spring

Two new accounts of Syria and Egypt, the states that failed after their popular attempts at revolution.

By: Ursula Lindsey
burning-country-syrians-in-revolution-and-war-by

At what point did the revolution in Egypt go off the rails? This was the question my friends and I spent most of our time discussing in smoke-filled rooms in Cairo in the years following the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Islamists swept the elections; protests turned into clashes and massacres; jails filled with young men and women; an avuncular, menacing general took over. And the uprisings that had erupted in Syria, Yemen and Libya degenerated into brutal civil wars. Had it been a revolution after all? In July, Amnesty International reported on the Egyptian security forces’...

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Grand Hotel Abyss: The Lives of the Frankfurt School

Jeffries4

This brilliant group biography asks who were the Frankfurt School and why they matter today     In 1923, a group of young radical German thinkers and intellectuals came together to at Victoria Alle 7, Frankfurt, determined to explain the workings of the modern world. Among the most prominent members of what became the Frankfurt School were the philosophers Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, and Herbert Marcuse. Not only would they change the way we think, but also the subjects we deem worthy of intellectual investigation. Their lives, like their ideas, profoundly, somet...

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Etienne Balibar: Laïcité or identity?

By: Etienne Balibar / 31 August 2016
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The controversial banning of the “Burkini” by several French municipalities last week – and it’s overturning by the state council – has once again brought the question of what laïcité actually means, and who it works for, in contemporary France. In this short article, originally published in Libération and translated here by David Broder, Etienne Balibar traces the vicissitudes of the concept to show how we have ended up with the “monster of identitarian laïcité”. Thanks to the state council’s ruling we will avoid seeing a morality police in Fra...

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Zygmunt Bauman: Behind the world’s ‘crisis of humanity’

By: Al Jazeera

In Western Europe it has been a summer of great change and discontent. The European Union is facing major upheaval as the United Kingdom gets ready to withdraw its membership, in the process possibly jeopardising the composition of the country itself. Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman frames the upheaval across the globe as symptomatic of the diffusion of fear.   In fact, under the surface, people across Europe seem to be on edge. As European nations deal with migration and various economic uncertainties, the political landscape is changing, and a feeling that old social structures are b...

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Jihadism: A Generational and Nihilist Revolt

By: Olivier Roy
olivier roy book002

Jihadism as Nihilist Revolt The destruction of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq will change nothing about the uninterrupted radicalization of the French youth since the 1990s. Whether these youth were already Muslim or recent converts, this radicalism has exploded their familial environment. Apart from cultural or third-worldist explanations, it is time for French society to grasp this phenomenon in its entirety. France is at war! Perhaps. But at war with whom or against what? Daesh (ISIS)[1] does not send Syrians to commit attacks in France in order to dissuade the French government from ...

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Slavoj Žižek on Brexit, the crisis of the Left, and the future of Europe

By: SLAVOJ ZIZEK and BENJAMIN RAMM
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The Slovenian philosopher tells Benjamin Ramm that the survival of the European project is too important to be left to a referendum.     Slavoj Žižek is animated about Brexit. “You know, popular opinion is not always right”, he insists. “Sometimes I think one has to violate the will of the majority”. This sentiment may surprise some of his admirers, but our discussion highlights his long-standing ambivalence about democracy. The despair and confusion of the past week has only reinforced his outlook. Reflecting on the Leave voters who were alarmed to learn that their side ha...

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Five Book Plan: Islamophobia

By: Deepa Kumar
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For our latest Five Book Plan — posted in conjunction with the publication of Edwy Plenel’s For the Muslims — we invited Deepa Kumar, author of Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire, to contribute a list of her top five books on anti-Muslim racism. Kumar is regularly cited as one of the world’s leading experts on Islamophobia and imperialism. Let me begin by confessing that it was difficult to select only five books on Islamophobia. There are so many excellent works on the topic that it was hard to choose just five. The question I asked myself when whittling down the list wa...

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A Time of Disruption

By: Cédric Durand
banksy

25 June 2016     So the time of disruption has come. Against the backdrop of economic disaster, bureaucratic arrogance and a contemptuous lack of concern for social questions, the appeal of the European project has constantly weakened over recent years. And the centrifugal forces that had been building up have today got the upper hand. The United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union is the first movement of what has now become a very likely — if not yet inevitable — process dismembering the EU. ´´So the time of disruption has come. Against the backdrop of economic disaster,...

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Five Years After the Arab Uprisings: An Interview with Asef Bayat

By: by Özgür Gökmen
book Asef Bayat turkish

This interview was conducted on the occasion of the publication of the Turkish editions of Asef Bayat’s Making Islam Democratic and Life as Politics (Stanford University Press, 2007 and 2013 respectively), and originally appeared in Cumhuriyet Kitap 1366 (21 April 2016): 14–15. It is a follow-up of our first public correspondence, “‘Our Revolution Is Civil’: An Interview with Asef Bayat on Revolt and Change in the Arab World,” that was published in The Hedgehog Review five years ago. Özgür Gökmen (ÖG): In Life as Politics you refer to the dangers of foreign intervention more th...

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Palestine through the lens of Frantz Fanon (part 1)

By: Nick Rodrigo
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Part 1: Why Fanon? The indispensability of thought and the urgency of action Palestine is in the throes of revolt. It started with protests and demonstrations at the presence of Israeli “Temple Mount” activists (and their political benefactors) at the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, the symbolic pillar of Palestinian spirituality and national redemption. The unrest then spread to other cities on both sides of the Green Line. From Nazareth to Nablus to Bethlehem, young Palestinians have taken to the streets to hurl stones and Molotov cocktails at an occupation which plunders their...

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Holy Wars; Secularism and the invention of religion

By: James G. Chappel
Relativism and Religion -book

          Relativism and Religion: Why Democratic Societies Do Not Need Moral Absolutes Carlo Invernizzi Accetti Columbia University Press, $65 (cloth) The Paradox of Liberation: Secular Revolutions and Religious Counterrevolutions Michael Walzer Yale University Press, $18 (paper) Beyond Religious Freedom: The New Global Politics of Religion Elizabeth Shakman Hurd Princeton University Press, $29.95 (cloth) Religious Difference in a Secular Age: A Minority Report Saba Mahmood Princeton University Press, $24.95 (paper) • • • The American public sphere is blesse...

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The Migration Panic And Its (Mis)Uses

By: Zygmunt Bauman
Zygmunt Bauman2016

TV news, newspaper headlines, political speeches and tweets used to deliver foci and outlets for public anxieties and fears are currently overflowing with references to the “migration crisis” – ostensibly overwhelming Europe and portending the collapse and demise of the way of life we know, practice and cherish. That crisis is at present a sort of politically correct codename for the current phase of the perpetual battle waged by opinion makers for the conquest and subordination of human minds and feelings. The impact of the news broadcast from that battlefield now comes close to causing...

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The Racist Dawn of Capitalism

Unearthing the economy of bondage

By: Peter James Hudson
Book Review Word Cloud as a Concept

Books & Ideas Empire of Cotton: A Global History Sven Beckert Vintage, $17.95 (paper) The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism Edward E. Baptist Basic Books, $35 (cloth) River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom Walter Johnson Harvard University Press, $35 (cloth) The Price of Emancipation: Slave-Ownership, Compensation and British Society at the End of Slavery Nicholas Draper Cambridge University Press, $34.99 (paper) A decade before his assassination at the hands of a nationalist in 1914, French socialist Jean Jaurès compl...

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The Day Tehran Shook

By: Farideh Farhi
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Speaking to a journalist days after the February 26 elections in Iran, leading reformist Mohammad Reza Aref stated, “When I saw the results for Tehran coming in, I was shocked.” [1] Aref had expected the top of the list he headed to do well in the contest for Tehran’s 30 seats in the Tenth Majles, or Parliament, of the Islamic Republic. Most pre-election polls, in fact, had predicted that Aref’s slate would come out ahead in the capital. But its first-round sweep of all 30 seats, including many wins by unknown candidates, was a stunner for all involved. Adding to the surprise was the s...

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Class and Politics in Post-Revolutionary Iran: A Brief Introduction

By: Kevan Harris
2016-MERIP Iran

The dominant narrative of the 1979 Iranian revolution granted a pivotal role to a new political actor—the downtrodden masses. Over the past two decades in Iran, a different protagonist gradually replaced them, equally captivating and elusive—the middle class. While neither category fully represented the reality of Iranian society, each idea was deployed as a weapon to reshape the political order. During the early years of the Islamic Republic, for instance, low-ranking clerks, technicians and nurses in the Ministry of Health joined with janitors, gardeners and kitchen staff to demand that ...

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Interview with Professor Abbas Vali

abbas Vali kurdish

 On February 10, 2016, the Washington Kurdish Institute conducted a Skype interview with Professor Abbas Vali on the political situation in Rojhelat (Iranian Kurdistan) and Iran’s foreign policy towards Kurds. As a distinguished political and social scholar from Mehabad, Iranian Kurdistan, Vali obtained his BA in Political Science from the National University of Tehran in 1973. In 1976, he received an MA in Politics from the University of Keele. Then in 1983, he obtained his PhD in Sociology from University of London. Dr. Vali has authored numerous books and articles on the Kurdish national...

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In memory of Benedict Anderson: an extract from Imagined Communities

By: Duncan Thomas
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Benedict Anderson, a hugely respected author and scholar, passed away on Saturday 12th December, 2015. His best-known book, Imagined Communities, was first published by Verso in 1983 and became an instant classic. The innovative approach that the book introduced in the study of nationalism—that ‘nations’ are socio-cultural constructs, comprising otherwise atomised individuals who ‘imagine’ themselves to live in communion—showed Anderson at his best, combining a sharp intellectual mind with humour, compassion and an unrivalled knowledge of the societies he studied. W...

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‘Nothing mysterious about Islamic State’

By: Farooq Sulehria
2014-Gilbert Achcar002

Professor of Development Studies and International Relations at SOAS, Gilbert Achcar discusses the Arab Uprising and the rise of the Islamic State (Daesh) “There is nothing mysterious about the so-called Islamic State…It is presently, perhaps, the most studied and researched phenomenon across the world,” says Gilbert Achcar. Professor of Development Studies and International Relations at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), Gilbert Achcar was born in Lebanon. Before joining SOAS, he taught at the University of Paris VIII and is a leading commentator on the Middle Eas...

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The Islamization of radicalism

By: Olivier Roy
Olivier Roy-grand-angle-djihadism

Is France at war? Perhaps. But against whom or against what?     The Islamic State (IS) militant group did not send Syrians to carry out attacks in France to dissuade the French government from bombing them. The IS draws from a reservoir of radicalized young French citizens who — regardless of what happens in the Middle East — would still seek a cause, a label or a great story to which they would affix the bloody trail of their personal revolt. Crushing the Islamic State will not change this revolt. The Islamic State is merely an opportunity for these young people. Young people l...

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Jacques Rancière: The Front National’s useful idiots

By: Mike Watson
jacques rancier

According to the philosopher Jacques Rancière, a number of so-called French ‘republican’ intellectuals have been opening the door to the Front National for some time now. In an interview with Éric Aeschimannm, Rancière shows how universalist values have been perverted to the benefit of xenophobic discourse. Three months ago France took to the streets in the name of freedom of expression and coexistence. The recent local elections saw a fresh breakthrough for the Front National. What is your analysis of the quick succession of these two apparently contradictory developments? I wouldn’t...

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Interview with the Islam expert Olivier Roy

European Islam: destined to be ignored

By: Federica Zoja
olivier roy book

The links between Europe and the Maghreb are stronger than many would like to believe. Politicians on both sides of the Mediterranean, in particular, are ignoring the emergence of a specifically European brand of Islam, says the French political scientist and Islamic studies expert Olivier Roy. The interview was conducted by Federica Zoja Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia. In which of these three countries, in your opinion, is the political situation most complex? Olivier Roy: To tell the truth, all three of them, including Morocco, although it seems to be the most stable. Algeria is addressing the qu...

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Violence comes home: an interview with Arun Kundnani

By: ARUN KUNDNANI and OPENDEMOCRACY
The Moslims are coming

After the Paris attacks, what are the logical and tragic consequences of war with no geographical limits? Arun Kundnani has studied terrorism and counter-radicalisation programmes in the United Kingdom and the United States, and is the author of The Muslims are coming!, published by Verso. In this interview, he unveils and critiques the ramifications of the ‘war on terror’, from the conservative and liberal rhetoric of the intellectuals and commentators who have emerged, to the theories of ‘radicalisation’ which have fuelled counter-terrorism programmes in the west. Only an anti-racist...

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REVIEW: Friend of the downtrodden: Eqbal Ahmad by Stuart Schaar

By: IRFAN HUSAIN
2015-Eqbal Ahmed

 IT takes a brave writer to attempt the biography of somebody he has liked and admired for most of his life as it is difficult to view a fallen comrade objectively. But this is what Stuart Schaar has done in Eqbal Ahmad: Critical Outsider and Witness in a Turbulent Age. The many friends and admirers of Eqbal Ahmad (1930-1999) will welcome his book. Many aspects of his life as a student, an academic and political activist in the United States are not very widely known in Pakistan, and we owe Schaar a vote of thanks for his diligent documentation. The author was a friend of Ahmad’s from their...

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Some Thoughts on November 13 and After

By: Azadeh Kian
Azadeh Kiyan002

My son and I were both so excited. It was my first time attending a soccer game at a stadium. And it was a momentous match, pitting the French national team against their counterparts from Germany. The Stade de France just outside Paris was full of almost 80,000 spectators of different social groups, ethnicities, ages and genders. Watching a match at a stadium, I realized, is very different from watching it on television. I was thinking about my Iranian sisters who cannot enter a stadium in Tehran as I can in Europe. Then we heard the first blast. The whole stadium shook, but the match went on...

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In war

By: ETIENNE BALIBAR
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In this nomadic, undefined, polymorphous, and unsymmetrical war, the populations on ‘both shores’ of the Mediterranean are taken hostage. And Europe has a nearly irreplaceable function. Yes, we are at war. Or rather, henceforth, we are all in war. We deal blows, and we take blows in turn. We are in mourning, suffering the consequences of these terrible events, in the sad knowledge that others will occur. Each person killed is irreplaceable. But which war are we talking about? It is not an easy war to define because it is formed of various types which have been pushed together over ...

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“we don’t like to be called “refugees”

By: Stewart Motha
2015. Hannah Arendt 002 stamps

The Redundant Refugee “In the first place”, Hannah Arendt wrote in 1943, “we don’t like to be called “refugees”.1 She had escaped Germany, survived the French internment camp in Gurs, and was living in the United States. For Arendt, “there is not and never was any club founded by Hitler-​persecuted people whose name indicated that its members were refugees” (110). The concept of a refugee was already out of time: “We ourselves call each other “newcomers” or “immigrants”, she asserted. Arendt was writing before the adoption of the 1951 Refugee Convention definition o...

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‘Isis in Paris’—By Tariq Ali, Hamid Dabashi and Judith Butler,

2012-france election

‘Isis in Paris’—By Tariq Ali   So ISIS has claimed the attacks as a response to France bombing the ‘caliphate’ in the Middle East. That Hollande/Valls are warmongers is beyond dispute . Ironically they were preparing to topple the Assad regime (till Washington insisted on a delay) which would have made them ISIS allies in the region. In fact the bulk of the opposition in Syria regard Assad as the primary contradiction and were also hoping the West would deliver another regime change. Had they done so a new civil war would have erupted between rival jihadi groups ...

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Walter Benjamin: The Refugee and Migrant’—by Esther Leslie

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Speaking at Walter Benjamin Now, an event at Whitechapel Gallery marking the 75th anniversary of Benjamin’s death, Esther Leslie thinks through Benjamin’s concepts, in particular the ‘microcosm’, to reflect on the contemporary migrant crisis at the borders of Fortress Europe. These ‘millions of nameless movers’ give Benjamin’s own death a contemporary resonance, as well as endowing his memorial with new meaning in ‘the Now’.   Esther Leslie is a translator of Walter Benjamin’s ‘The Storyteller’ and author of ‘Hollywood Flatlands: Animation, Critical Theo...

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Hamid Dabashi, Can Non-Europeans Think?

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Hamid Dabashi, Can Non-Europeans Think? Chicago: University of Chicago Press and London: Zed Books, 2015. Jadaliyya (J): What made you write this book?     Hamid Dabashi (HD): This book is the most recent culmination of years of thinking about the thorny relation between knowledge and power, which was the subject of sustained critical reflections by a range of critical thinkers long before me, most recently Michel Foucault and of course Edward Said. Although the disciplinary formation of my own thinking is more deeply rooted in the revered tradition of the sociology of knowledge, sti...

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