Click here to get your copy of “Mediating the Arab Uprisings” (Tadween Publishing).
With contributions from myself, Linda Herrera, Adel Iskandar, Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi, VJ Um Amel, Vivian Salama, Nir Rosen, Anthony Alessandrini, Maya Mikdashi, Shiva Balaghi, Amal Hanano, and others…
“From “Facebook revolutions” to “Al-Jazeera uprisings,” the outburst of popular activism across the Arab world has either been attributed to the media, drawn up by the media, observed through the media, or decontextualized by the media. Bloggers become icons, self-proclaimed experts becoming interpreters of unfolding events, stereotypes are cultivated, and autocratic regimes continue to subdue freedom of the press. The uprisings have become the most compelling media stories in recent memory. With so much at stake, the burden of relaying human narratives accurately and responsibly is a burden on all journalistic establishments worldwide.
In a unique collection of essays that covers the expanse of the Arab popular protest movements, Mediating the Arab Uprisings leaves no stone unturned by offering spirited contributions that elucidate the remarkable variation and context behind the fourth estate’s engagement with these mass protests.
So while the public debate about the coverage of the Arab uprisings remain effervescent and polarizing, the essays in this volume go beyond the cursory discussion to historicize media practice, unsettle pre-existing suppositions about the uprisings, puncture the pomposity of self-righteous expertise on the region, and shatter the naiveté that underlies the reporting of the uprisings. The volume includes essays on the tribulations of covering Syria, the contextualization and demythologizing of Facebook activism, the New York Times’ reporting rituals on Palestine, the tumult of Egypt’s media post-Mubarak, the ominous omnipresence of perennial media darling Fouad Ajami, the faltering of Al-Jazeera Arabic in the wake of the uprisings, the gendered sexuality of reporting Egypt, and journalism’s damning failure on Iraq. The first volume of its kind on this pressing topic, Mediating the Arab Uprisings is a primer for the curious reader, a pedagogical tool for media studies and communication, and a provocative collection for the seasoned scholar.
This initiative was supported by the Middle East Studies Program at George Mason University.”
On 24 January 2011 – a day before the arc of Egyptian history would be altered – the film Microphone was screened. Microphone documents Alexandria’s pre-revolution underground scene of artists and musicians fighting a passive oppression that suffocates their ability to nurture their creativity. Khaled (played byKhaled Abol Naga), who has returned to Egypt from the US, wishes to aid the youth by providing them with a venue and funding for nurturing their talents. In one scene, Khaled is conversing with an official at the state’s cultural office to request support for his project. The dialogue proceeds as follows:
Official: What is this graffiti? Is our role to pollute the walls or to clean them?
Khaled: “Graffiti is an art, the whole world acknowledges it. We have to encourage the youth in their pursuits”
Official: “Is this not transgression against people and properties, and visual pollution?
Khaled: “What about the campaign posters littered around the country’s walls, isn’t that visual pollution as well?”
Official: “No, that is something and this is something else. Election campaigning is part of our democratic process”
To the dumbfound look of Khaled who – frustrated enough by red tape – now is expected to digest a bureaucrat’s talk of “democracy” in Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt
Prior to the revolution, Alexandria’s walls were largely Soviet-esqe and barren. Artists who did attempt to paint the walls, like Aya Tarek (featured in the film) and Amr Ali (not the author of this piece), were often stopped by the police or reported by onlookers suspicious of their novel activity. Fatma Hendawy, a curator who started on the street scene before the revolution, notes that one way to circumvent these obstacles was to go through the Goethe Institute to use its diplomatic muscle to define joint German-Egyptian art projects. Yet as Fatma laments, such institutes inadvertently stump your creativity in order to cater to their bilateral agendas.
In the months following the 2011 Revolution, I took to cataloguing the artwork that blossomed and inspired me to believe that the public space was gradually being reclaimed by society. I am no artist; however, I take the position of the “public” and write on the art in the context of the socio-political dynamics and nuances that influence societal perceptions of street art. Specifically, this essay attempts to tell the story of the past two years purely through artwork from the streets of Alexandria. For Cairo, I highly recommend the large collection of Suzee Morayef who, on her blog, offers great analyses on street art that is prolific through the capital’s streets. Also Mona Abaza, professor of sociology at the American University in Cairo, has penned brilliant pieces on the artistic narration of the revolution.
Continue to read full article at Jadaliyya