From the Editors:
Spring 2014 (Vol. XXII No. 1)
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In “Cultures of Resistance in Palestine and Beyond: The Politics of Art, Aesthetics, and Affect,” Sophie Richter-Devroe and Ruba Salih introduce the imperatives, questions, and ideas that inspired the special issue we are featuring here. Encompassing a broad array of approaches, methodologies, and perspectives, Rania Jawad, Adila Laïdi-Hanieh, Maha Nassar, Helga Tawil-Souri, Miriyam Aouragh, Craig Larkin, Brahim El Guabli, Hanan Toukan, and Yazid Anani each take on the relationship between cultural production and political resistance. For the Arab world and the Middle East more broadly, these questions are as timely today as ever. But beyond the urgencies of the moment, the special issue editors and contributors provide us with a powerful set of empirical research and analytical reflections that thinkers, artists, students, and teachers will be able to refer to, learn form, and build on for years to come.
We are also pleased to be featuring Tamirace Fakhoury’s “Debating Lebanon’s Power-Sharing Model: An Opportunity or an Impasse for Democratization Studies in the Middle East?” Fakhoury highlights the exclusion of research on Lebanon’s political system from broader debates about democracy and democratization. She argues that most analyses of the “Lebanese power-sharing system” have been based on the consociational model, which is itself positioned in an isolated and particularly controversial niche of the field of democratization studies. Fakhoury alternatively proposes ways of extracting research on Lebanon from the hegemony of consociational theory, with a particular emphasis on viewing the power-sharing system as dynamic rather than fixed.
This issue’s review section features three extended review essays. Arang Keshavarzian examines recent studies of authoritarianism that “contemplate the paths taken and foreclosed by historical legacies, vested interests, and institutional configurations.” Guy Burak’s essay considers how a transimperial approach to Safavid and Bektashi shrines “offers new ways to explore ‘local’ questions and new sources with which to explore them.” Anne-Marie McManus reviews four contemporary Syrian novels recently translated into English and reflects on the politics of their reception. “How,” she asks, “can we read translations of the prerevolutionary Syrian novel today, in the years following a national uprising that began far from the circles of elite culture, without reducing these works of literature to prescient foreshadowings of our present day?”
The politics of culture is likewise a theme in three books under review: Walid El Hamamsy and Mounira Soliman’s edited volume, Popular Culture in the Middle East and North Africa; Madawi Al-Rasheed’s A Most Masculine State; and Katarzyna Pieprzak’s Imagined Museums. Another theme in this issue’s review section is the formation of modern power structures and subjectivities. Whether looking at Mandate Palestine (Colonial Copyright and Land of Progress), Jordan in the late Ottoman and interwar periods (The Social and Economic Origins of Monarchy in Jordan), Ottoman- and Mandate-era Syria (Damascus and The Emergence of Minorities in the Middle East), or Upper Egypt across several centuries (Imagined Empires), these works deepen assessments of the past’s persistence in the present. Reviews of Nasser’s Gamble and Shiism and Politics in the Middle East take up the complexities of international political relations in the very different contexts of 1960s Egypt and contemporary Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Iraq, respectively. Finally, a trio of reviews looks at ethnographic and cross-disciplinary studies of Turkey that are particularly pertinent in this historical moment: And Then We Work for God, Technology and National Identity in Turkey, and Refractions of Civil Society in Turkey.