There is a lot wrong in Dubai ::cough:: indentured servitude ::cough:: but this... sounds so very right: a Pop Idol-type show for poets! The "Poet of Millions" show features similar glitzy sets as its contemporaries in the global singing-competition biz but the contestants, mustachioed and head-dressed men, are not the typical contestants. Hassan M. Fattah writes, in the New York Times, "Instead of love ballads sung by scantily clad singers, the contestants offered the rhyme and rhythm of a flowery style of Bedouin poetry known as Nabati, popular in the Persian Gulf, but largely forgotten in much of the rest of the Arab world." Fattah compares the cultural rise of the Persian Gulf to that of the US South as country singers and "southern ways" entered the American mainstream. Previously Egypt and then later Lebanon set the tone for the "Arab street" but, Fattah argues, that is changing through the influence of satellite TV and the growing desire of oil rich nations to influence Arabo-Islamic pop culture. Of course, even as I write this I am reminding myself that the cultural influence of the US south came part and parcel with a country-wide embrace of conservative "values." It is perhaps a mistake to extend the metaphor too far, but it is a question worth asking: if the task of setting the tone for popular culture in the Middle East is moving away from comparatively moderate states like Egypt and Lebanon and toward the Gulf, what are the implications? Fattah doesn't open that can of worms here, but he asks the opposite question, "Throughout the Middle East, media companies and government projects have worked to elevate gulf talent and bridge a longstanding divide between the region’s conservative ways and the comparatively more liberal attitudes found elsewhere." This is what I mean when I write, politics is culture/culture is politics.
tags: Culture is Politics, Poetry
2) An Unwanted Spokeswoman
Sahar, of the blog Nuseiba, has written a great analysis of Hillary Clinton's jainky politics based on a recent interview (titled "Saving the World's Women: A New Gender Agenda"... Oy) she gave Mark Lander in the New York Times Magazine. Sahar writes, "I find it remarkable that Clinton– who assumes the role of spokeswoman for all women in the world—is talking about global women’s rights, while concurrently a part of a government that has wrought so much havoc on many in the developing countries specifically mentioned in the interview (India, Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq)." Having seen Clinton in action here in New York before her return to the world stage during the democratic primary race I am unsurprised by her feminist orientalism and nascent colonial ambitions re: the Middle East. It is amazing to me though that one can still get away with claiming-- as Clinton does-- that the wrongs done to women are a symptom of an endemic resistance to modernity, a hoary old Orientalist cliche. Especially given the horrors--some subtle, some grotesquely not--that women routinely face in the so-called "First World" west. Sahar does a great job here of deconstructing the assumptions that underlie Clinton's world view. And hints at the heady admixture of feminist orientalism, Zionism and colonial ambition that hangs on Hillary Clinton like perfume. We are in for much more of this, I am afraid.
tags: New York Times, Feminism, Orientalism, Islamophobia
3) Burqa Tourism at its Finest: How To Become an Expert of Muslim Women in Just One Week
Rounding things out is another one from Muslimah Media Watch: Krista has written a terrific analysis of the latest asinine Burqa-for-a day experiment undertaken by a non-Muslim European woman. In this case, journalist Liz Jones of Britain's Daily Mail, moved by the plight of Sudanese journalist Lubna Hussein, who faces 40 lashes for wearing trousers in public, decided to "spend a week enveloped in what (Hussein) should have been wearing." What follows is so Tyra-in-a-fatsuit over the top that it truly reads like the racist parody it is destined to become. Even within the genre of contemporary Islamophobic/orientalist reportage, there are simple logical inconsistencies within her report that one assumes an editor might question. (As in: her claim that the only person who harassed her during her covered week was an Arab man who harangued her as she attempted to eat a sandwich while covered, an image that begs for the Benny Hill theme song... Except that she admits she had no idea what he was actually saying. Nevertheless, she asserts on his behalf (hey, why stop now?) "... perhaps I shouldn’t have been out on my own, or perhaps eating is a sin..." Yes. That makes a lot of sense. Needless to say, Krista tears this apart, maintaining the excellent standard set by MMW for this sort of report.
tags: Culture is Politics, Islamophobia, Orientalism, Feminism
Ain't no party like a Lebanese party 'cause a Lebanese party don't stop. So if you are Michigan this weekend...
tags: Culture is Politics