Maghreb From the Margins
This issue of Middle East Report on “Maghreb From the Margins” addresses the evolving challenges that the peripheries are posing to power structures in Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia and the Western Sahara. Recent courageous actions of everyday women and men—alongside the shifts in the political and economic dynamics connecting the region to state and corporate interests in Europe, North America and the Gulf—force a rethinking of taken-for-granted assumptions about authoritarianism and the rentier social compact. The contributors to this issue are not recounting yet more sad tales of the failed dreams of Arab socialism but are instead describing the diverse hopes and strivings by marginalized people as they navigate political openings, economic ruptures, social dislocation and unexpected opportunities. The authors insist that understanding the experience of, and resistance to, marginalization in today’s North Africa requires turning attention to actors and sites normally considered outside of the political process.
Issue Editors: Zakia Salime, Mona Atia, Jacob Mundy, Paul Silverstein
How do race and racism operate in the Gulf? Neha Vora and Amélie Le Renard closely examine how the term “Indian,” as it is used in the United Arab Emirates, refers to much more than national origin. They trace the role of colonialism, capitalism and the state in creating “Indian” as a racialized category in contrast to an imagined pure Gulf Arab identity. Attempts to police the boundaries between citizens and non-citizens obscures the Gulf’s truly multicultural and multiracial history and present.
As Iran’s elections approach (June 18, 2021), MERIP revisits recent articles that provide a deeper context for understanding politics in Iran today. The pieces gathered here include a forum re-thinking US-Iranian relations as well as articles examining key elections in Iran over the last 20 years, from 2001 to 2021.
Alex Lubin interviews Ussama Makdisi about his work on sectarianism and coexistence in the Middle East, the subject of his most recent book. Makdisi also addresses the role of race and colonialism and explains the importance of seeing these ideological formations in historical and geopolitical context. Forthcoming in the next issue of Middle East Report, “Race—Legacies and Challenges.”
MERIP editors interview Evren Altınkaş, a Turkish scholar who was pushed out of his academic position by his university’s administration as a consequence of participating in the Gezi Park protests of 2013. Altınkaş discusses his work on the intellectual tradition in Turkey, the role of the ruling AKP party in society and the challenges he and other academics face.
Begüm Adalet reviews Burak Erdim’s “Landed Internationals: Planning Cultures, the Academy, and the Making of the Modern Middle East.” As in past decades, universities in Turkey are venues of contestation between authority and resistance, with the government imposing its singular vision of a “pious, homegrown, national youth” on a diverse student body. Erdim’s book is the story of one such institution, the Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara, which was an iconic site of leftist student mobilization and anti-US protests in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Asher Orkaby examines the politics and unforeseen consequences of international aid in response to war and suffering in Yemen. He finds that much of the humanitarian aid actually exacerbates the war by fostering a lucrative wartime economy, disincentivizing peaceful resolutions and prolonging national dependence on foreign aid. Local civil society efforts try to promote self-sufficiency and repair the damage, but face many challenges.
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.)