Indiana University Press

Public Cultures of the Middle East and North Africa

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Public Cultures of the Middle East and North Africa

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Music and the Armenian Diaspora

Searching for Home in Exile

Sylvia Angelique Alajaji

Survivors of the Armenian genocide of 1915 and their descendants have used music to adjust to a life in exile and counter fears of obscurity. In this nuanced and richly detailed study, Sylvia Angelique Alajaji shows how the boundaries of Armenian music and identity have been continually redrawn: from the identification of folk music with an emergent Armenian nationalism under Ottoman rule to the early postgenocide diaspora community of Armenian musicians in New York, a more self-consciously nationalist musical tradition that emerged in Armenian communities in Lebanon, and more recent clashes over music and politics in California. Alajaji offers a critical look at the complex and multilayered forces that shape identity within communities in exile, demonstrating that music is deeply enmeshed in these processes. Multimedia components available online include video and audio recordings to accompany each case study.

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Palestinian Music and Song

Expression and Resistance since 1900

Edited by Moslih Kanaaneh, Stig-Magnus Thorsén, Heather Bursheh, and David A. McDonald

Drawing from a long history of indigenous traditions and incorporating diverse influences of surrounding cultures, music in Palestine and among the millions of Palestinians in diaspora offers a unique window on cultural and political events of the past century. From the perspective of scholars, performers, composers, and activists, Palestinian Music and Song examines the many ways in which music has been a force of representation, nation building, and social action. From the turn of the 20th century, when Palestine became an exotic object of fascination for missionaries and scholars, to 21st-century transnational collaborations in hip hop and new media, this volume traces the conflicting dynamics of history and tradition, innovation and change, power and resistance.

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The Pearl of Dari

Poetry and Personhood among Young Afghans in Iran

Zuzanna Olszewska

The Pearl of Dari takes us into the heart of Afghan refugee life in the Islamic Republic of Iran through a rich ethnographic portrait of the circle of poets and intellectuals who make up the "Pearl of Dari" cultural organization. Dari is the name by which the Persian language is known in Afghanistan. Afghan immigrants in Iran, refugees from the Soviet war in Afghanistan, are marginalized and restricted to menial jobs and lower-income neighborhoods. Ambitious and creative refugee youth have taken to writing poetry to tell their story as a group and to improve their prospects for a better life. At the same time, they are altering the ancient tradition of Persian love poetry by promoting greater individualism in realms such as gender and marriage. Zuzanna Olszewska offers compelling insights into the social life of poetry in an urban, Middle Eastern setting largely unknown in the West.

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Performing al-Andalus

Music and Nostalgia across the Mediterranean

Jonathan Holt Shannon

Performing al-Andalus explores three musical cultures that claim a connection to the music of medieval Iberia, the Islamic kingdom of al-Andalus, known for its complex mix of Arab, North African, Christian, and Jewish influences. Jonathan Holt Shannon shows that the idea of a shared Andalusian heritage animates performers and aficionados in modern-day Syria, Morocco, and Spain, but with varying and sometimes contradictory meanings in different social and political contexts. As he traces the movements of musicians, songs, histories, and memories circulating around the Mediterranean, he argues that attention to such flows offers new insights into the complexities of culture and the nuances of selfhood.

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The Politics of Suffering

Syria's Palestinian Refugee Camps

Nell Gabiam

The Politics of Suffering examines the confluence of international aid, humanitarian relief, and economic development within the space of the Palestinian refugee camp. Nell Gabiam describes the interactions between UNRWA, the United Nations agency charged with providing assistance to Palestinians since the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, and residents of three camps in Syria. Over time, UNRWA's management of the camps reveals a shift from an emphasis on humanitarian aid to promotion of self-sufficiency and integration of refugees within their host society. Gabiam’s analysis captures two forces in tension within the camps: politics of suffering that serves to keep alive the discourse around the Palestinian right of return; and politics of citizenship expressed through development projects that seek to close the divide between the camp and the city. Gabiam offers compelling insights into the plight of Palestinians before and during the Syrian war, which has led to devastation in the camps and massive displacement of their populations.

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Saharan Frontiers

Space and Mobility in Northwest Africa

Edited by James McDougall and Judith Scheele

The Sahara has long been portrayed as a barrier that divides the Mediterranean world from Africa proper and isolates the countries of the Maghrib from their southern and eastern neighbors. Rather than viewing the desert as an isolating barrier, this volume takes up historian Fernand Braudel's description of the Sahara as "the second face of the Mediterranean." The essays recast the history of the region with the Sahara at its center, uncovering a story of densely interdependent networks that span the desert's vast expanse. They explore the relationship between the desert's "islands" and "shores" and the connections and commonalities that unite the region. Contributors draw on extensive ethnographic and historical research to address topics such as trade and migration; local notions of place, territoriality, and movement; Saharan cities; and the links among ecological, regional, and world-historical approaches to understanding the Sahara.

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Shi'i Cosmopolitanisms in Africa

Lebanese Migration and Religious Conversion in Senegal

Mara A. Leichtman

Mara A. Leichtman offers an in-depth study of Shi‘i Islam in two very different communities in Senegal: the well-established Lebanese diaspora and Senegalese "converts" from Sunni to Shi‘i Islam of recent decades. Sharing a minority religious status in a predominantly Sunni Muslim country, each group is cosmopolitan in its own way. Leichtman provides new insights into the everyday lives of Shi‘i Muslims in Africa and the dynamics of local and global Islam. She explores the influence of Hizbullah and Islamic reformist movements, and offers a corrective to prevailing views of Sunni-Shi‘i hostility, demonstrating that religious coexistence is possible in a context such as Senegal.

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Space and Mobility in Palestine

Julie Peteet

Professor Julie Peteet believes that the concept of mobility is key to understanding how place and space act as forms of power, identity, and meaning among Palestinians in Israel today. In Space and Mobility in Palestine, she investigates how Israeli policies of closure and separation influence Palestinian concerns about constructing identity, the ability to give meaning to place, and how Palestinians comprehend, experience, narrate, and respond to Israeli settler-colonialism. Peteet’s work sheds new light on everyday life in the Occupied Territories and helps explain why regional peace may be difficult to achieve in the foreseeable future.

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Syria's Democratic Years

Citizens, Experts, and Media in the 1950s

Kevin W. Martin

The years 1954–1958 in Syria are popularly known as "The Democratic Years," a brief period of civilian government before the consolidation of authoritarian rule. Kevin W. Martin provides a cultural history of the period and argues that the authoritarian outcome was anything but inevitable. Examining the flourishing broadcast and print media of the time, he focuses on three public figures, experts whose professions—law, the military, and medicine—projected modernity and modeled the new Arab citizen. This experiment with democracy, however abortive, offers a model of governance from Syria’s historical experience that could serve as an alternative to dictatorship.

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