The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts tagged Uncategorized
NYU in Abu Dhabi
The Review at The National has a feature on NYU's John Sexton and his hyper-ambitious plans for the university's new Abu Dhabi campus. It's a two-part articles, so I'm hoping the next section takes a tougher look at the university's claims about its mission. I had a wonderful time getting my masters at the Hagop Kevorkian Center at NYU, but I became very skeptical of the administration--their treatment of any student demands for greater participation in the university's running was always condescending and quite ruthless. The articles mentions the way Sexton crushed the grad student union; it also mentions a sit-in that took place when I was there--what it doesn't say is that the students were forcefully evicted by police, expelled from university housing, and charged with vandalism in disciplinary hearings. The sit-in's main demand was greater accountability of the university's finance and greater student participation in its decisions. The Review piece raises interesting questions about how well Western academic standards will withstand the pressures of Gulf politics and religious sensitivities; it should also ask how well Western academic standards have withheld the pressures of the modern American market. NYU is a good university but almost more than that, at this point, it's an efficient conglomerate.
Like many, I think, I've been watching the footage of the massive demonstrations and state brutality and the internet updates (Now here's a real use for Twitter, to put all the banal, compulsive over-sharing of politicians and correspondents to shame) coming out of Iran over the last few days. It's all worrying and exciting and very confusing to me--how and to what extent were the elections rigged? Is there any chance that this outpouring of indignation will have an effect? 

I do think President Obama struck the right tone. Since we are (thankfully) not currently planning on bombing and invading Iran, there is no point is making strident ultimatums or threats--they will just be used by the clerical regime to tar their opponents; they're already accusing the U.S. of interference.
Swine flu makes Americans pariahs?
Interesting first-person essay in the Daily News Egypt (which jives with a few other anecdotes I've heard) about how swine flu hysteria--I know it's a serious health threat, but the reaction has been out of proportion--is affecting the treatment of foreigners in Cairo. I also read in the Egyptian press today that Saudi Arabia may not allow pilgrims from countries where cases have been found to come to Mecca this year.
June 2nd I moved back to Cairo from New York. Despite all of New York's attractions, it's a move I've been looking forward to with anticipation--I've missed my home, my work, my future husband, and my friends. 

I hear there's been lovely, temperate weather the last month, but by the time I arrived the city was already broiling. The blooming flamboyants--the flame trees, my favourite trees here--with their feathery leaves and masses of blood-orange blossoms, seem to actually be catching fire under the sun. But I don't mind the heat--it's familiar, and everything familiar is pleasurable right now. 

I got here just ahead of Obama. I walked around Cairo's eerily empty streets, watched the speech on TV in my neighborhood awha, and did a short radio piece on it you can listen to here. Audiences here--as audiences the world over--were impressed with the new American president; they're disposed to like him. (A few of the ahwa patrons watching the speech were particularly impressed by his Koranic quotations and by his apparent enjoyment of his visit to the Sultan Hassan mosque). But everyone wants to see what he'll actually do next.
Body in Beirut
Yesterday's Washington Post had an article about a new cultural magazine in Beirut dedicated to the body (It's called  جسد, "body"). The first issue included "fiction, essays and other literary works about foot fetishism, homosexuality and cannibalism."

The magazine was launched by poet and an-Nahar editor Joumana Haddad.
Haddad said her magazine doesn't have an equivalent, not even in the Western cultures she is familiar with."It doesn't exist there simply because they don't need it. In the West, people own their bodies. In the Arab world, our bodies have been stolen from us," she said.

That's a pretty stilly and debatable generalization. And I just can't get any sense from the article as to what this magazine is actually like. (I'm curious why it has a lot of subscribers in Saudi Arabia--did they order it just based on the title?) It all seems pretty gimmicky.