Health & the Body Politic
Health and health care have become increasingly ungoverned over the past few decades, in tandem with a broader breakdown of the body politic. Health care workers are finding it increasingly difficult to work in settings of violent conflict and insecurity, rapidly declining health care systems, pervasive corruption and widespread economic mismanagement—all amidst the waning capacity of states to improve the health and wellbeing of their populace. While the Middle East region trains a lot of doctors, few end up staying. The winter issue of Middle East Report explores the interactions of the body politic with health and medicine and examines the entanglements of physical bodies in the institutional and political processes that govern them. The articles in this issue explore a range of different landscapes and ecologies of politics and health care, bringing the questions and problems of health and illness into the analysis of geopolitics and political economy.
Issue Editors: Nabil Al-Tikriti, Kevan Harris and Graham Cornwell with Guest Editor Omar Dewachi
Anna Simone Reumert reviews Darryl Li’s book The Universal Enemy: Jihad, Empire and the Challenge of Solidarity, an eye-opening ethnographic history of the experience and fate of foreign fighters acting in the name of global Muslim solidarity in the Bosnian war of the 1990s.
The Sahrawi people have been struggling for self-determination in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara since 1975. Despite years of nonviolent resistance, there has been no significant change in the stalled process of decolonization. Until now. The sudden end to the long-running ceasefire and Trump’s tweet recognizing Moroccan control over Western Sahara and Morocco’s normalization of relations with Israel have suddenly altered the political dynamics. Mark Drury explains what this means for Sahrawi aspirations.
Humanitarian medical aid was developed to provide life-saving assistance to populations suffering from war and disease. What happens when this model is applied to help those living under occupation and coping with chronic deprivations and long-term siege conditions? Osama Tanous, a Palestinian pediatrician in Israel, recounts how he saw the logic of medical aid shattered during trips to Gaza and reflects on the limits of humanitarianism. Forthcoming in MER issue 297 “Health and the Body Politic.”
The epidemic of cancer in Iraq that emerged after the 1991 Gulf War has afflicted nearly every family. In response to a health care system devastated by sanctions and war, Iraqis acquired decades of experience piecing together novel mechanisms for obtaining treatment. The tendency of families to rely on their own knowledge and practices around disease is, however, no match for the coronavirus pandemic and the corruption of political elites that enables its spread. Forthcoming in MER issue 297 “Health and the Body Politic.”
Registered Syrian refugees in Turkey are allowed to access free state health care. But the language barrier, registration difficulties and prejudice led to the emergence of informal clinics run by refugee doctors. Although the government has opened Migrant Health Centers to ease access and replace informal clinics, unregistered refugees continue to face challenges. Nihal Kayali interviewed doctors, patients and clinic staff to find out how Syrians strategically navigate Turkey’s shifting health care terrain. Forthcoming in MER issue 297 “Health and the Body Politic.”
Daniel Neep reviews Lisa Wedeen’s book Authoritarian Apprehensions: Ideology, Judgment, and Mourning in Syria and finds it a “serious, powerful work operating on multiple levels: it speaks to an impressive range of debates in the Anglophone academy and the Syrian artistic field without losing sight of the visceral suffering of Syrians both inside and outside the country.”
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.)