From The Editors
Spring 2013 (Vol. XXI No. 1)
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We can scarcely believe that two decades have passed since the publication of the first issue of the Arab Studies Journal. We are proud and humbled to have published groundbreaking work by scholars at the onset of their careers as well as at the pinnacle. During the last twenty years, the Journal has taken part in extraordinary changes in the field of Middle Eastern studies: paradigm shifts (and, on occasion, returns), the growth of once-nascent fields (like gender and sexuality studies), and the emergence of exciting new subfields. The Journal’s contributions have included a series of special issues devoted to such cutting-edge themes as: The Body; Dynamics of Space; Visual Arts and Art Practices; Language and Culture; and Middle East Exceptionalism. Throughout, we have tailored our issues to reflect shifts in knowledge production as well as respond to profound political, social, and cultural changes.
As part of that effort, last year we joined forces with our sister online organization, Jadaliyya ezine, established in 2010 under the auspices of the Arab Studies Institute (www.Arab Studies Institute.org). This partnership has already yielded substantive results, as both publications draw on large pools of talent. It has also bridged the gap between the relatively narrow confines of academia and a more expansive readership.
This volume, our twentieth anniversary issue, offers a spectrum of the work we have been dedicated to publishing—critical, progressive, comparative, and multidisciplinary. In that spirit, we present articles and book reviews that range in geographic coverage, topic, and discipline (history, anthropology, political science, sociology, and comparative literature) as well as a special section entitled “Arab Migrations and Diasporas,” drawn from presentations at the 2011 symposium on “Arab World Migrations and Diasporas” at Georgetown’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies.
Joel Beinin makes a critical historiographical intervention by attending to the urban element of the history of pre-aliyah Jewish communities, pre- state Zionist settlers, and pre-1967 settlements in the territories. Unearthing this urban element, he argues, allows us to excavate histories of urban Arab- Jewish coexistence. Moreover, it reveals that the “trajectory of the Zionist settlement project encompasses a transition from urban coexistence and rural violence toward increasing urban violence as the frontier shifted from the countryside to the cities.” Beinin simultaneously writes a narrative of this coexistence-cum-dispossession and points to strengths and weaknesses in the historiography.
Khaled Furani offers another reading of Israel/Palestine with his exploration of the poetry festivals that took place in the Galilee during Israeli military rule (1948-66). These festivals, he shows, took on the aura of village weddings, representing moments of elation, inclusivity, and a break from the overarching sense of despair. They were also spaces in which Palestinian poets could both recover and shape a language of nation, belonging, and, above all, home. Furani sensitively evokes a particular historic moment in which “aesthetic agency coalesced with political agency” to articulate a distinct and enduring politics of dissent.
Moving from literary to historical anthropology, Zainab Saleh deconstructs the first Iraqi Nationality Law of 1924 and traces its application under Saddam Hussein’s regime in the 1980s to justify the expulsion of the “Iraqis of Iranian origin.” Reading through the lens of nation building, Saleh deftly reveals how this law institutionalized difference among Iraqi citizens by assigning legal status based on nationality held under the Ottomans. This differential inclusion became a means of exclusion decades later, further illustrating the persistence of the colonial legacy in postcolonial Iraq following the fall of the monarchy in 1958.
Cortney Hughes Rinker takes us to Morocco with her work on women’s use of contraception in working-class health clinics in Rabat. Hughes Rinker argues that the use of contraceptive methods serves as a means for women to express their uncertainty and fear about Morocco’s future. By analyzing popular culture, government reports, and ethnographic data, she suggests that the reconstruction of citizenship in Morocco has produced anxiety on fertility and motherhood. For these women, contraception is less about becoming autonomous and self-sustaining citizens, as framed within neoliberal development discourses, and more about surviving and managing national obligations and working-class realities.
This issue also features a special section on migration and diaspora, a particularly timely topic in this moment of heightened deportations, exile, refugees, and socioeconomic emigration. Louise Cainkar provides a theoretically dynamic and quantitative overview of the English-language field of Arab world migrations and diasporas, within which scholars can situate their work. Starting from the insight that the blanket term “migrant” reveals a profound bias in scholarship that then translates into policy, Cainkar’s article is a critical intervention in a field that seldom engages in cross-disciplinary or cross-regional, much less comparative, conversations. She lays the groundwork for new approaches to Arab world migrations and diasporas.
The last two articles are situated within different historical eras and disciplines, yet both revolve around Lebanon. This is perhaps unsurprising given, as Cainkar notes, that one in thirteen Lebanese resides in diaspora. Simon Jackson examines the political dynamics of the global Syro-Lebanese diaspora during the period of French mandatory rule. He focuses on the formation of auxiliary troops of the Syrian Legion during World War I, showing how these diaspora communities played a crucial and previously neglected role in the political economy of French Mandate Syria-Lebanon. Jackson traces this diaspora’s critique of the Mandate’s economic policies and its connection to the League of Nations in Geneva to reveal a rich repertoire of narratives and debates.
Wendy Pearlman in turn examines how the Lebanese diaspora continues to play a significant role in internal Lebanese politics in the contemporary, post-civil war era. She uses Lebanon as a case study to identify emigration as a major yet overlooked factor that allows regime leaders to maintain power and thwart opposition movements. She shows how emigration can serve as a safety valve alleviating socioeconomic discontent and pressure for reform; offer a political exit and reduce the imperative of action for change; lead to a depletion in the ranks of those best positioned to bring new ideas and skills into public life; and invite an infusion of capital that helps to sustain partisan or clientelist networks.
This anniversary issue of ASJ also includes a robust review section, covering notable new works across a range of disciplines and subjects. These works include Noha Radwan’s study of Egyptian colloquial poetry, Abigail Jacobson’s history of Jerusalem during World War I and its immediate aftermath, Eve M. Troutt Powell’s examination of slavery in the modern Middle East, and Fida J. Adely’s ethnographically informed analysis of nationalism, faith, and gender in contemporary Jordan. In addition, reviews of two new works on Egyptian history—Samera Esmeir’s Juridical Humanity and Nancy Y. Reynolds’s A City Consumed—invite readers to reflect on the legacy of colonialism in Egypt as well as on broader questions about the formation of political subjectivities.
We are also very pleased to include a review of the new edition of Ella Shohat’s groundbreaking Israeli Cinema: East/West and the Politics of Representation. Over twenty years after its original publication, this boundary-crossing work, whose second edition features a substantial new postscript, remains “an indispensable study of Zionism and the moving image.” Another highlight is Picturing Algeria, a new edited volume of Pierre Bourdieu’s photographs of Algeria featured alongside previously untranslated writings.
Additional reviews address books of interest to those wishing to under- stand our political present, including Trita Parsi’s assessment of the Obama administration’s diplomacy with Iran, John Collins’s study of Israel’s increasingly globalized forms of militarized securitization, and Eyal Weizman’s analysis of how humanitarianism becomes intertwined with state violence.
This issue’s review section concludes with two essays: one on contemporary Salafism and “the local, national, and global scales within and across which Salafis operate,” and the other on “rebels, rulers, and the right to the city” in Dubai and beyond.