Nature & Politics
The coronavirus pandemic is vividly highlighting the fundamental links between people, health and the environment. This issue on nature and politics probes the essential but also sometimes fraught relationships between people and their environments in the Middle East. It provides insights into crucial issues of energy, water and climate change and the political struggles between states and their citizens over environmental stewardship, sovereignty and the allocation of resources. It also takes us into spaces of human-environment interaction that are not so commonly discussed—bird markets, Iraqi landscapes contaminated with toxins, sinkholes around the Dead Sea and Turkish wetlands teeming with wildlife. Through these contributions, “Nature and Politics” offers a critical take on contemporary challenges across the Middle East.
Issue Editors: Jessica Barnes and Muriam Haleh Davis with Guest Editor Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins
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.”
November 2020 is election season not only in the United States, but also in Jordan where the prospects for a shakeup in parliament are quickly receding. Based on interviews with Jordanian political leaders, E.J. Karmel explains the shifting dynamics among candidates, lists, parties and currents that are undermining the potential for a changed parliament and seem to be leading to another business-as-usual election next Tuesday.
The discovery of oil in Turkey’s southeast encouraged state elites to imagine that development would lead to the assimilation of Kurds into Turkish culture and language. Instead, oil infrastructures and the resulting social changes had very different consequences. Zeynep Oguz explains the historical dynamics of the quest for oil and how it nurtured Kurdish dissent and critique of the state. Forthcoming in MER issue 296 “Nature and Politics.”
When the massive explosion in Beirut’s port ripped through the city on August 4, 2020, members of the Palestinian Civil Defense Lebanon sprang into action. Although based in Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps and despite entrenched suspicion and bias against refugees, the group immediately rushed to help their Lebanese neighbors. Erling Lorentzen Sogge tells their story.
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.)