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
On July 24, 2020 the Turkish government opened Hagia Sophia in Istanbul to prayer for the first time in 86 years, reverting the building’s status from museum back to mosque. Blessing and Yaycıoğlu explain the politics behind this decision and explore the ramifications for Hagia Sophia and other monuments with similarly rich and multilayered histories.
MERIP’s coverage of the First Gulf War sought to understand the crisis beyond the battlefield kinetics: from Iraq’s August 1990 invasion of Kuwait to the US-led Desert Storm military operation liberating Kuwait and looking beyond to the regional aftermath. Our authors and editors offered historically-grounded analysis of the invasion, they measured the nascent waves of misery and violence that would radiate from it and offered clear-eyed commentary on the costs and risks.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s appointment of Melih Bulu as the new rector of Boğaziçi University on January 1, 2021 provoked outrage among students and faculty in Turkey. Alemdaroğlu and Babül explain the anger behind the continuing protests and how Boğaziçi’s struggle fits into a long history of government control over higher education as well as the ruling party’s desire to attain cultural hegemony by cultivating what Erdoğan calls pious, homegrown and national youth.
Hakim Addad has been a political activist in Algeria for decades. In this interview with Thomas Serres he discusses the increasing repression of peaceful demonstrators under President Tebboune, the positive role of a new generation of activists in the Hirak movement, his arrests and imprisonment and the challenges of being binational. Forthcoming in MER 298, “Maghreb From the Margins.”
Fruzan Afshar traces the contested politics and complex law of setting the minimum wage and cost of living figures in Iran. She shows how Iranian labor activists are making innovative use of the state’s labor laws to secure political inclusion and a platform to voice demands.
Laleh Khalili draws on memories from childhood, her experience of leaving Iran and her ongoing interest in cooking to review a series of classic and contemporary Iranian cookbooks. Through them she reflects on the politics of identity in the Iranian diaspora and the global circuits of foodways reflected in Iranian regional cuisines.
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.)