Arab Studies Institute
Washington DC - Beirut
Issue 4.2 of STATUS/الوضع Audio Magazine is Live!
November 18, 2017
"STATUS" LAUNCHES ISSUE FEATURING INTERVIEWS ON SYRIA'S DISAPPEARANCES, BEIRUT'S SEXUALITY HOTLINE & MUCH MORE
Your go-to audio journal and podcast on the MENA region is back with Issue 4.2; subscribe on iTunes or listen at www.statushour.com!
At a time when Syria has dropped from mainstream media headlines, considered now a past tense, Status delves deeper and more systematically into the intricacies of the status quo and beyond. One example is a powerful interview with perennial activist Fadwa Mahmoud on the landmark “Freedom Bus” campaign in support of missing and detained people in Syria.
In the spirit of continuing our exploration of Syrian lives outside of home, our new host Raghad Almakhlouf produced a terrific triptych of conversations on the theme of Syrian artists in exile. The interviews with musician Abu Ghabi, actress Hala Omran, and stage director/actor Wisam Talhouk are immensely captivating and moving. In the midst of the cacophony around refugees in Syria, the complicated politics of sexual identity orientation has taken front stage but become embattled in every sense of the word. In a conversation with SOAS-based scholar Sabiha Allouche, she unravels the reality of Syrian LGBTQ+ refugees thereby highlighting the similarities and particularities of this community’s difficulties.
In our dedicated segment “Syria Now,” we feature an interview with Syrian psychiatrist and poet Hussam Jafee Bahlul where he discusses the mental health of Syrian refugees displaced by the war. Similarly, Yerevan Hassan is interviewed about the institutions and efforts responsible for non-formal education for Syrian students in Lebanon.
Beyond the short and long-term repercussions of the Syrian conflict and the communities it has impacted, this issue of Status offers a series of captivating interviews with specialists on the region whose work is truly exceptional. One of these is a very honest discussion with Yara, Alia and Leila, three women behind Beirut’s increasingly impactful sexuality hotline—The A Project. With the intention of addressing the dearth of information from a feminist perspective on everything from sexuality and gender struggles to reproductive health, The A Project has been very important for a growing number of people by shattering the taboos around some of these issues. What started off being a largely urban Lebanese outreach project has gotten a growing response from outside the country where there is sometimes an even greater need for this type of information.
The last few months in the region have been exceptional by virtue of an unprecedented diplomatic confrontation and economic embargo in the Gulf region. We spoke to Adel Iskandar of Simon Fraser University about the targeting of Al-Jazeera in this confrontation and how this situation is reflected in the regional media landscape.
This issue also includes one of the most unique episodes of our segment on alternative and independent music in the region. Paola Cossermelli Messina interviewed two artists at the forefront of the independent music scene in Saudi Arabia. Musicians and collaborators Diya Azzony and Abdullah Filfilan share their experiences and thoughts on the current state of the music scene in the country with the greatest restrictions on cultural production. Their work, growing prospects, and overall optimism are in abundance in this very candid conversation. Another highlight on music is provided by host Malihe Razazan, in conversation with scholar Nahid Siamdoust on her book "Soundtrack of the Revolution: The Politics of Music in Iran" and the songs that continue to define modern Iran. Razazan also contributes an important segment on climate change and water rights in Palestine with environmental researcher and Al-Shabaka Policy Member, Muna Dajani.
While Status is primarily an audio platform, we are thrilled to have increased our video content with this latest issue. Much of this is a result of extremely fruitful collaborations with our new partners—Northwestern University and Georgetown University. Northwestern’s contributions are part of the MENA Dialogues series. These include an interview with award-winning novelist and essayist Porochista Khakpour on writing, diaspora, and the politics of the publishing industry. Another is an interview with Bassam Haddad on public scholarship and its relation to print publication in Middle East Studies. Esra Özyürek discusses the interplay and dynamics between Islam, Christianity, secularism and nationalism in the context of Turkey and Europe. Joel Beinin is interviewed about his most recent book Workers and Thieves: Labor Movements and Popular Uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. Finally, two of Morocco's most prominent intellectual figures, Abdelhay Moudden and Driss Ksikes, discuss the unique political, economic and social dynamics of the country.
We begin our partnership with Georgetown University in this issue with a look at two of their archived lectures which remain as informative and urgent today as they were when first delivered. The first is a lecture by Talal Asad from 8 April 2015 about the idea of an anthropology of Islam where he explores tradition, authority, and time. The second lecture by Laleh Khalili from the Spring of 2016 on the logistics of counterinsurgency and how the infrastructure of mobility impacts the social, political and economic lives of the region.
Another highlight of our panels section is "Media and the Afterlife of the Arab Uprisings", an event held at George Mason University featuring an interdisciplinary group of scholars discussing images, political dynamics, and cultural forms that have emerged in the years since Bouazizi, Tahrir, and Asad became familiar names beyond the Middle East.
In continuing with our tradition of unsettling the status quo and allowing voices from and about the region to communicate unhindered, we bring you another Status issue that both complicates and enriches the understanding of the Middle East and North Africa without oversimplifying or submitting to tired clichés.