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FALL 2016

Digital Mediation as Rehumanization:
How the “Refugee Crisis” prefigures the politics of representation

Miriyam Aouragh
(University of Westminster)


Thursday, October 27th, 4:00pm
IHC McCune Conference Room, HSSB 6020

Exasperating videos of a capsizing boat, alarming images of a shored up toddler, a wrenching snapshot of a child sitting in an ambulance rescued from barrel bombs. These images are haunting us as viewers. However, sometimes their circulations are also taunting us, reminding the general public of an odd complacency, that is when the viral mediation of such visuals disrupts a the common arrangement. There has been a growing fascination about the use of digital technologies by refugees themselves in the meantime. Reporting about the devices refugees use at times eclipsed reporting and documenting their causes and motivations. Through what is undoubtedly one of the most pressing struggles of our time, I aim to uncover how solidarity, revolutionary subjectivity and the politics of de/re-humanisation synchronise. Stripped from their history and politics, these narratives vindicate the universal appeal of liberation-technology and the colonial White Man Burden. We need to reorient analysis of media and communication towards the infrastructures that embed them and are themselves a product inequality. As several thousand people drowned in the Mediterranean Sea we need to contextualise the complex reality that has been given the lazy label “refugee crisis”.

Miriyam Aouragh (PhD, University of Amsterdam) is Senior Lecturer and Leverhulme Fellow at the University of Westminster London. As an anthropologist she specialises in the crossover between online media and Middle East politics. Her previous research concerned the political implications of the internet in Palestine during the Second Intifada, transnational reconnections between Palestinian refugees, political activism and online mobilisation in Lebanon. Since 2011 she embarked on a Leverhulme funded project concerning the (counter-)revolutionary dynamics of the internet in Syria and Morocco and the implications of digital imperialism for ICT infrastructures. Her work is published in several journals (International Journal of Communication Studies, Cinema Journal, Contemporary Levant, Cyber Orient, Arab Studies Journal, Mobilities), as well as her monograph Palestine Online (IB Tauris, 2011). She currently works on her second book about Tangier and specifically the online/offline dialectics in the rise and fall of the 20-February Movement in Morocco.

Hosted by Center for Middle East Studies (CMES), and co-sponsored by Carsey-Wolf Center (CWC) and Center for Information Technology and Society (CITS)




Five Centuries of Mortality:
The Second Plague Pandemic in Comparative Perspective, Egypt, 1347 - 1844 CE

Stuart Borsch
(Assumption College)

dMonday, November 7th, 5:00pm
HSSB 4080

This talk will analyze the impact of the Second plague pandemic in Egypt (1347-1844 CE). The Second plague pandemic refers to the long series of epidemics that struck the Middle East and Europe, starting with the Black Death, 1347-1351 CE. This pandemic generally lasted until the early 1700s in Europe, but longer in the Middle East. The First plague pandemic began with the plague of Justinian in the 500s CE - the Third plague pandemic began at the very end of the 1800s.

The talk will explore the dynamics of this long-term catastrophe by studying the mortality of the urban (Cairo, Alexandria, Qus, Asyut) and rural plague outbreaks in the Mamluk and Ottoman periods and into the modern period, 1347-1844, with a discussion of the viability and meaning of the demographic figures that we have from medieval and later sources. (Some comparative perspectives with Syrian population losses will be examined as well.)

Given the potential scale and scope of the loss, its severity and duration, the talk will also examine reasons why the Second plague pandemic may have been worse in Egypt than elsewhere, with attention to aspects of geography, flea and rat breeding cycles, domestic architectural considerations, and the quantitative study of Nile flood variations. Finally, attention will be directed to the overall impact of this loss on the economic and technological trajectory of Egypt in the long term (1300s to 1800s), and its role in the economic divergence between Europe and the Middle East in the 1700s.

Co-sponsored by the King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud Chair in Islamic Studies and the Center for Middle East Studies


What Happened to the "Arab Spring"?

Gilbert Achcar
(SOAS, University of London)


Tuesday, November 8th, 5:00pm
HSSB 4020

The Arab Spring of 2011 was but the beginning of a long-term revolutionary process, rendered much more complicated than other revolutionary processes by specific socio-political features -- rentierism and patrimonialism -- of the dominant Arab state system. Another complicating specific feature is the fact that counter-revolution in the Arab region is two-pronged: the revolutionary process confronts not only the established regimes, but also their Islamic fundamentalist contenders. These peculiarities, combined with the intrinsic weakness of progressives in the region, provide the main explanation for the shift from the initial revolutionary phase to the ongoing counter-revolutionary phase that started in 2013. The various dynamics of this shift will be assessed in the light of the particular conditions that prevail in the different key theaters of the 2011 uprising. The region will find no new stability as long as no solution emerges for the explosive socio-economic factors behind the Arab Spring.

Gilbert Achcar grew up in Lebanon, researched and taught in Beirut, Paris and Berlin, and is currently, since 2007, Professor of Development Studies and International Relations at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS, University of London). His many books include: The Clash of Barbarisms: The Making of the New World Disorder, published in 15 languages; Perilous Power: The Middle East and U.S. Foreign Policy, coauthored with Noam Chomsky; the critically acclaimed The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives; Marxism, Orientalism, Cosmopolitanism; The People Want: A Radical Exploration of the Arab Uprising, and most recently Morbid Symptoms: Relapse in the Arab Uprising.

Co-sponsored by the Center for Middle East Studies and the King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud Chair in Islamic Studies


Crude Imaginations: Capitalism, Space, and the politics of History in Saudi Arabia

Rosie Bsheer
(Yale University)


Wednesday, November 10th, 4:30pm
HSSB 4020

The centennial celebration of the 1902 conquest of Riyadh by the founder of the modern Saudi state triggered major, ongoing initiatives to document the country’s nascent history. The attendant multi-billion dollar archives, museums, historical monuments, and urban redevelopment plans were among the many efforts to institutionalize and memorialize an officially sanctioned secular discourse based on Al Saud’s past. This belated turn to secular historiography and commemoration, and the creation of a heritage industry in Riyadh, is all the more paradoxical given the Saudi regime’s active neglect of historical space outside the capital, and specifically, its wholesale destruction of historical and religious sites in Mecca. This talk explores this dissonance through a genealogical reading of the material and spatial politics that have been central to Saudi modernity.

Rosie Bsheer is an assistant professor of modern Middle East history at Yale University. Her teaching and research interests center on Arab intellectual and social movements, petro-capitalism and state formation, and the production of historical knowledge and commemorative spaces. She is currently working on a book manuscript, provisionally entitled, Archive Wars: Spectacle, Speculation, and the Politics of History in Saudi Arabia.Bsheer is also a co-editor of Jadaliyya E-zine, The Dawn of the Arab Uprisings: End of an Old Order? (Pluto Press, 2012), and Theorizing the Arabian Peninsula (Tadween Publishing, 2013), and is the Associate Producer of the 2007 Oscar-nominated film on Iraq, My Country, My Country. Bsheer received her Ph.D. in History from Columbia University (2014).

Sponsored by the Center for Middle East Studies



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