Race—Legacies and Challenges
This issue of Middle East Report, “Race—Legacies and Challenges,” highlights the historical and cultural specificity of racial formation, racialization and racism in the Middle East and North Africa. Histories of Western imperialism, indigenous legacies of enslaved labor and ongoing postcolonial nation-building projects have configured race and racism differently than across the West. This issue demonstrates the need to analyze race and racism locally. Racial categories continue to be shaped and reshaped by migration and labor. They intersect with other categories of social difference including gender, language, culture, nationality and socioeconomic status. At the same time, anti-racist mobilization and rhetoric anchored in the West holds political currency. In tracing the social movements that have arisen in response to racism in the region, this issue also shows how activists and citizens are making strategic connections across geopolitical borders in their struggle for anti-racist futures.
Issue Editors: Elif Babül, Muriam Haleh Davis and Jessica Barnes with Guest Editor Alex Lubin
Francesco Cavatorta examines MERIP’s 50 years of covering the complex phenomenon of political Islam and finds that much of it is based on field research, participant observation, interviews and ethnography. The result has been a rich diversity of approaches that comprehend the plural nature of Islamism, directly engage the words and deeds of Islamists and provide insights that prepare readers to understand real-world events. Forthcoming in the Fall 2021 issue “MERIP at 50.”
Although issues of domestic surveillance and discrimination faced by Arabs living in the United States became more prominent after the attacks of September 11, 2001, MERIP has been covering them continuously since the organization was founded 50 years ago. Pamela Pennock surveys how MERIP has written about issues of surveillance, struggles for justice and solidarity in the Arab American community. Forthcoming in the Fall 2021 issue “MERIP at 50.”
Twenty years after the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the US invasion of Afghanistan, Darryl Li surveys how MERIP’s deep and insightful coverage of the resulting War on Terror countered the “willful amnesia of American nationalism with a rigorous insistence on illuminating the historical continuities of imperial violence.” This essay is the first in a series reflecting on MERIP’s hard-hitting coverage of a wide range of topics since 1971, forthcoming in the Fall 2021 issue “MERIP at 50.”
Oil workers in Iran have been striking since June 19, 2021, leading some observers to ask whether protests are becoming routine within the existing political system or are a prelude to a bigger uprising. The authors explain what makes these strikes remarkable, why Iran’s neoliberal policies pushed workers to organize and how the state and society are reacting.
Ten years after the Tunisian people overthrew the country’s authoritarian ruler, their democracy is in crisis. On July 25, 2021, Tunisian President Kais Saied invoked Article 80, the emergency clause in the constitution, to sack the prime minister and freeze the activities of parliament. Nate Grubman and Aytuğ Şaşmaz examine the role of the political party system in preparing the ground for this dramatic move.
Yemenis forced to leave their war-torn home not only flee to neighboring countries, they also head south across the Indian Ocean to the European Union’s furthest outpost: the French-administered island of Mayotte. Bogumila Hall tells the stories of migrants who make grueling journeys south and north only to be trapped by EU policies that severely limit their mobility. Despite the hardships, Yemenis continue to create vital social bonds and dream of freedom.
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.)