Peripheries and Borderlands
The Winter 2022 issue of Middle East Report, “Peripheries and Borderlands,” begins with the premise that the so-called “peripheries” and borderlands of the Middle East and North Africa are generative spaces at the center of their own stories. They are spaces that call into question the seeming totality and power of the state, spaces that are at once integrated in and integral to global economies. Historically, these spaces played a role in defining the shape of the region. One set of contributions draws on rich archival research to paint a picture of how peripheries and borderlands (and the people who dwelled there) influenced the bordering and re-bordering of states. Several articles go beneath the surface of so-called “cores” and “peripheries” to examine the movement of people and goods between them. Whether the micro-practices of Sudanese migrant laborers in Egypt, the informal trade networks at the heart of the Maghreb’s borderland economies or the illicit gold that flows from rural Mali to the souks of Dubai, peripheries do not exist in isolation. From the roads surrounding the Yemeni city of Taiz to the destroyed homes of Douma in Syria, foregrounding the agency of populations on the margins, as well as efforts of states and “centers” to control these spaces, sheds light on evolving power relations within and beyond the Middle East and North Africa.
Issue Editors: Stacey Philbrick Yadav, Jacob Mundy and Alexander Thurston
In recent years, gold has replaced cotton as Mali’s leading export. But each year, large quantities of Mali’s gold escape the country through illicit flows. Its primary destination: the UAE. Tracing a route from Bamako to Dubai, Bruce Whitehouse invites us to follow the flow of this precious metal that connects West Africa to the Persian Gulf. The gold that goes through Mali moves in ways that serve the interests of elites, at the expense of artisanal miners’ livelihoods, natural resources and state authority. What does its movement mean for Mali’s future? Will the flow of gold along the periphery of the Sahara-Sahel region bring prosperity or precarity?
In the context of Israel’s newly elected far-right government and ongoing censorship of Palestine in academia and social media, MERIP shares the second of a two-part series of interviews on changing American Jewish attitudes towards Israel and Zionism. In this interview, Lori Allen speaks with Sonya E Meyerson-Knox, Communications Director of Jewish Voice for Peace. They discuss the generational changes among American Jews, the role of social media and the increasing attention to intersectional organizing on the Jewish left.
Women’s football in Sudan has grown significantly since the 2000s, with more than 720 players and 21 teams now participating in the women’s national league. Yet attitudes toward women’s play vary across the country, with many footballers facing religious condemnation, social stigmatization, police harassment and even arrest. Players also point to “gender washing” by the Sudanese Football Association, an organization that diverts funds dedicated to developing women’s football from international bodies like FIFA. Based on interviews with women football players in Khartoum, Sara Al-Hassan and Deen Sharp highlight the challenges to women’s pursuit of the beautiful game, and their tenacity in continuing to play.
COP27, Alaa Abd El-Fattah and the Dreams of the Revolution—A Conversation with Omar Robert Hamilton and Ashish Ghadiali
On November 6, 2022, COP27 will begin in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, with the aim of delivering on the Paris Agreement and the intention to acknowledge the disproportionate effects of climate change on the Global South, through “Loss and Damage.” On the same day, British-Egyptian political prisoner and revolutionary activist, Alaa Abd El-Fattah, will escalate his over 200-day hunger strike and stop drinking water. In the context of these events, MERIP invited racial and environmental justice activist Ashish Ghadiali to speak with novelist, filmmaker and cousin of Abd El-Fattah, Omar Robert Hamilton, about the tensions that underpin “the African COP.’”
While the World Cup constructs and fortifies a distinctly Qatari nationalism, the tournament has not erased the underlying tensions and inequities in Qatar’s migration system and citizenship policies. Beginning with the “Hayya Card,” a new visa tied to the purchase of a FIFA ticket, Jaafar Alloul and Laavanya Kathiravelu consider how ambiguous legislation is being used to differentiate and divide resident groups for purposes of retaining control. At the same time, they highlight emerging spaces for everyday solidarity between Qatari citizens and migrant communities made possible through generational change.
With the approach of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Natasha Iskander speaks to Arang Keshavarzian about the politics of labor that underpin the tournament – and their devastating effects. From the deliberate framing of migrant workers as “unskilled” to the regulation of workers protests, minimal reforms to the kafala system and strategic recruitment from climate damaged areas, Iskander highlights how calculated policies and practices shore up power at the cost of human life. The conversation provides a reflection on the often violent mechanisms that sustain “the beautiful game.”
One of MERIP’s signature issues over the years has been the question of Palestine and the Arab-Israeli conflict—partly because of its intrinsic interest but largely because so much myth and cant clouds the mainstream media coverage of this subject that independent analysis is particularly necessary. This primer by Joel Beinin and Lisa Hajjar is a good place to start in understanding what is at stake as events unfold.
(Photo of Israeli separation barrier by Alfonso Moral.)