Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Defining Alterity

A Postcolonial Representation of Arabic
by Mohamed Benhaddou - Abdelmalek Essaadi University, Tetuan, Morocco
[Find the complete paper Here]

Textualizing events, beliefs, traditions and languages of the subjugated communities has always served the colonial purposes. The general aim was to indicate through the power of discourse who matters most and who is subordinate. Such a practice could not be said to be ended in post-colonial era. Post-colonial discursive practices still carry traces of colonial textualization of the Other. Euro-centricism, then, was not covert during colonization to the extent that the concept of European superiority was made very salient in most colonial writings and mainly in travel writings. In fact, intellectual superiority formed the control centre, i.e., the macro-topic around which all the other concepts are simply used to support and to strengthen the major topic.

Such discursive practices have not disappeared in the aftermath of colonialism. Residual effects have persisted. They have remained the usual and the common practice whenever the Other -and by Other it is meant not only the individual, but everything characterizing this individual- is taken as the object of scientific inquiry as it is the case of post-colonial study of Arabic. This paper is an attempt to illustrate certain aspects of post-colonial discursive practices concerning the linguistic habits of the Other. It is in actual fact a critical review of, or in post-colonial terms, resistance to studies dealing with the language of the Other. Such an approach is intended to show not only the actual view of the Self vis-à-vis the Other, i.e., the confirmation of the superior Self vis-à-vis the inferior Other. But it intends to explore the operational process underlying the creation and utilization of language. This kind of process takes advantage of the structural, textual and contextual factors, in order to achieve the ultimate aim behind the production and reception of such a stretch of connected verbal interaction, as it manifest itself in dominant discourse practices or in counter-discourse practices.

Inspiring picture by Thavisouk
[artist: Dan Perjovschi]

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

French Socialists: Losers, not Even Beautiful

In the recent European elections (9/06/2009), French socialists paid - again - the high price for opportunism and short-term perspective.

In 1995, for presidential elections, their candidate was precisely defeated for the same reasons - but obviously, it takes more than ten years for a political message to reach a French socialist's brain.
Lionel Jospin said "my program is not a socialist one" and used a conservative fear rhetoric instead of tackling the most important issues -unemployment, for example - through the prism of social justice. Less skilled at this dirty little game than right and far-right candidates, he has been eliminated in the first round of presidential elections - finishing both behind Chirac and Le Pen.

What did le Parti so-called "Socialiste" decide after such a frank rejection?
Well, they kept on saying their project was not a socialist one.
It was not surprising a few years later to see many of them betraying their own political family and join the government of Nicolas Sarkozy. One of the most extreme example of such an inglorious backflip being Bernard Kouchner, whose ability to betray every single one of his past ideals is really fascinating - in some way. He is like a kind of Shakespearian character, whose behaviour unfortunately has effects that exceed the world of fiction.

More recently, Manuel Valls, the mayor of Evry, filmed in the streets, wondered where the White people were, saying the presence of French people with a darker complexion gave "a bad image of the city". Tell President Obama about it, Manuel.
Such a racist statement should have been challenged by a party whose electoral basis is partly made of descendants of African people. It has not. French socialists probably think it is a detail. But this kind of detail, in addition to many others, justify their well-deserved wreckage.

At least we have Leonard Cohen to listen to while watching them sink.

Fruit Knives

Article published in Caijin Magazine 16/06/2009
Translation by China News Wrap
Picture: The Epoch Times [A young man supports Deng Yu-jiao by traveling one thousand kilometers on a scooter to give her a plaque engraved Lady of Integrity]

The controversial case of Deng Yu-jiao has recently attracted nation-wide attention within China. Deng Yu-jiao, a resident of Hubei province, stabbed two local government officials, causing the death of one of them , after they sexually harassed at her work place and verbally abused her. In the wake of the highly-publicized incident, the Hubei province government placed a blanket prohibition on party or government officials frequenting saunas and massage parlours, or participating in similar “entertainment activities.”

According to the news story, at 11:00 in the morning on 16 June, the first session of the Hubei province Badong County Court trial of Deng Yu-jiao concluded. The panel of judges announced their decision before the court, that Deng Yu-jiao’s conduct comprised the crime of assault, yet because it was a form of “excessive self-defence”, and because Deng Yu-jiao is only capable of bearing limited criminal liability and she also turned herself in to the authorities, she has been made exempt from punishment. “Deng Yu-jiao’s free status has been legally, fully restored.”

“According to those present, the trial by the Badong county court opened at 8:30 in the morning. Deng Yu-jiao had her hair tied in a pony-tail, was wearing a white T-shirt and dark-grey cut-off jeans, and sat in the defendant’s chair. Her body appeared quite weak, yet psychologically she seemed in good health. Throughout the entire trial Deng Yu-jiao spoke few words. Her voice was slightly weak, yet her thoughts were clear.”

“According to the prosecution document read before the court by prosecutors Xu Xue-mei and Yang Yu-lian from the Badong county procuratorate, on the evening of 10 May, Deng Gui-da, chairman of the business office of Yesanguan township in Badong county, Huang De-zhi, vice-chairman of the same organization, and several other individuals entered the ‘Xiong Feng Hotel Dream Fantasy City’ in Yesanguan township, Badong county, for personal entertainment after they had been drinking. Deng, Huang and their other companions wished to enter the ‘Water Therapy Area’ for an ‘Opposite Sex Shower’. Huang De-zhi, after finding Deng Yu-jiao washing clothes in one of the VIP rooms, entered the room, and demanded that Deng Yu-jiao accompany him in the shower. Deng Yu-jiao stated that she did not work in the ‘Water Therapy Area, and refused his demands.”

“Deng Yu-jiao then left the VIP room. While walking in the hallway, Deng Yu-jiao encountered Ms. Tang, a colleague of hers who worked in the KTV section, and told her how a customer had mistakenly thought that she was a staff member from the Water Therapy Area. The two of them then entered the staff relaxation room together. At this time, a Ms. Luo, Ms. Wang and Ms. Yuan were also in the staff relaxation room, watching television.”

“Huang De-zhi followed Deng Yu-jiao into the staff relaxation room, and began to curse and abuse her. Deng Gui-da, hearing the noise, entered the staff relaxation room, and upon learning that Deng Yu-jiao had refused to provide Huang De-zhi with ’shower’ services, also began to curse and abuse Deng Yu-jiao, flaunting a wad of cash in front of Deng Yu-jiao’s face, and hitting her on the shoulder with it.”

“Deng Yu-jiao said that in spite of the money, she would not accompany Huang De-zhi in the shower. After attempts by Ms. Luo to provide mediation, Deng Yu-jiao wished to leave the staff relaxation room, yet was pulled back by Deng Gui-da. At this time, a manager in the establishment, a Ms. Yuan, upon hearing of the dispute, rushed to the room and explained to Deng Gui-da and Huang De-zhi that Deng Yu-jiao was not a staff member in the ‘Water Therapy Area’, and ordered Deng Yu-jiao leave the room.”

“Deng Yu-jiao attempted to leave the room again, yet Deng Gui-da pulled her back, and pushed her onto a sofa. Deng Yu-jiao stood up, produced a fruit knife from her carry bag, and concealed it behind her back. Deng Gui-da pushed Deng Yu-jiao back onto the sofa again. Deng Yu-jiao kicked Deng Gui-da backwards with both her feet, and stood up. Deng Gui-da rushed towards Deng Yu-jiao again, and Deng Yu-jiao stabbed Deng Gui-da with the fruit knife, causing four wounds to the left side of his neck, his left forearm, the right side of his chest, and his right shoulder. Huang De-zhi moved forwards to block her, and was also stabbed by Deng Yu-jiao in his left arm. Deng Gui-da died from his wounds following unsuccessful medical treatment.”

“The Badong Public Security Bureau Criminal Forensics Office confirmed that: Deng Gui-da died due to shock related to sudden loss of blood, when an individual used a sharp implement to severe a major artery in his neck and slice into his right lung. Huang De-zhi’s right arm incurred a light wound.”

“The public prosecutor also stated that following the occurrence of the incident, Deng Yu-jiao voluntarily turned herself into the public security bureau, and accurately confessed the facts of the case.”

“The public prosecutor stated that during the investigation, the Hubei and Wuhan judicial psychology hospitals conducted a psychological assessment of Deng Yu-jiao, as entrusted by the Public Security Bureau, and concluded that ‘Deng Yu-jiao suffers from psychological disorder (bipolar disorder) and is categorized as being capable of bearing only limited criminal liability.”

“The public prosecutor believes that Deng Yu-jiao, while preventing Deng Gui-da and Huang De-zhi from illegally violating her, caused the death of one person, and that her self-defence conduct clearly exceeded the necessary scope, and is categorized as excessive self-defence. According to the provisions of article 21 and article 234 of the ‘Criminal Law’,with the facts of the crime clear and the evidence fully certain, (Deng Yu-jiao) should be prosecuted for criminal liability for the offence of wilful assault. Yet punishment should lightened or dismissed. At the same time, on the grounds that Deng Yu-jiao is psychologically ill, and incapable of fully controlling herself, in accordance with article 18 of the ‘Criminal Law’, punishment should be lightened. Punishment should also be lightened on the grounds that Deng voluntarily turned herself in to the authorities.”

“According to those present at the trial, Deng Yu-jiao’s defence lawyers, Wang Shao-peng and Liu Gang, made a plea of ‘not guilty’ on Deng Yu-jiao’s behalf. They emphasized that Deng Yu-jiao’s self-defence conduct had been appropriate and apt, and had not exceeded the necessary scope. Deng Yu-jiao’s conduct is also in accordance with the provision of article 20 of the ‘Criminal Law’, which confer a limitless right to self-defence, and Deng should not bear any criminal liability.”

“Following almost an hour of deliberation, the judges announced a recess at 10:30 in the morning. Following a joint discussion of the panel of judges, the judges announced the results of their decision at 11:00 in the morning: Deng Yu-jiao’s conduct comprises the crime of wilful assault, yet was also a form of excessive self-defence. Because Yu Deng-jiao is only capable of bearing limited criminal liability, and also turned herself in to the authorities, she has been made exempt from punishment.”

“This decision also fundamentally approved of the charges of the prosecution, while adopting some of the opinions of the defence lawyers.”

“According to the understanding of ‘Caijing’ journalists’, the Badong court No.1 courtroom is capable of holding more than 50 people, yet members of only 8 media organizations were allowed to view the court proceedings. These included the Xinhua News Agency, the People’s Daily, Hubei Satellite Television, the Enshi Television Network, and the Changjiang Badong Net. Applications by other media organization to view the court proceedings were politely declined by Badong county authorities on the grounds that all such approvals had been fully released.”

“From 7 a.m., people began to gather at the entrance to the Badong County Law Court. By the time the court session concluded, approximately five hundred people had surrounded the court. The relevant departments of Badong county had established police on either side of the entrance to the court and on either side of the main road for the purpose of preserving order.”

“Following the decision, police responsible for maintaining order began to request that the crowd which had gathered disperse. As of the time that this story was published, there was still a crowd at the entrance of the Badong County Law Court, yet public order had been successfully maintained.”

- China Digital Times 2/06/2009: Have You Left No Sense of Decency? How China’s Latest Internet Hero Will Test the Rule of Law
- The Epoch Times 30/05/2009: Badong Officials Attack Reporters Covering Deng’s Rape Case
- The Epoch Times 27/05/2009: Chinese People Continue to Support Waitress Who Killed Party Official

Monday, 15 June 2009

Sun Ra - Space is the Place (1974)

"What's that crystal thing in your hand?"

Funky Side of Orientalism

Article published on Muslimah Media Watch 11/06/2009

Let the Funky Arabs Turn you On! by Ethar El-Katatney

The new “Funky Arabs” single by Jad Choueiri, the Lebanese singer known for crooning love ballads, has had over 150,000 views on YouTube in one month.
Choueiri spends four and a half minutes singing about how Arabs are not the evil figures typically portrayed in Western media. “We’re not what you see on CNN and the BBC. […] Ain’t no bombers, we’ve got the guts,” starts off the track. So far, so good. But then the main message of the video really unfolds, which, when translated from pop star-speak, can be summarized:

“Arabs aren’t terrorists! We’re just like you, the all-wonderful West. We too have sexy blond girls with silicone boobs dancing in next-to-nothing clothes in smoky nightclubs, gyrating their hips and filing their nails. Our guys are all cut, and walk around wearing bling. We love to smoke, drink, and take drugs. We party all night and we are oh-so-cool.’

A disclaimer at the beginning announces that everyone who participated in the music video is an Arab, just in case you can’t possibly believe that such beauty, sexiness, and botox addiction exists in our countries.

The women in this music video, are, to put it simply, nothing more than half-naked eye candy. As Choueiri announces, “We’ve got sexy girls / Arab beauty that’ll rock your world.” The first woman we see is blond in a blue strapless dress and red heels, and her silicone implants are visible when she stands in front of an x-ray machine. Another is dressed in what looks like a pink ice-skating outfit, straddling a huge wine bottle in a martini glass. Another pours wine down her throat and then, on her hands and knees in a bikini, dances.

The men, unfortunately, don’t fare much better. Plucked to within an inch of their lives, they could not look more metrosexual if they tried. Ripped abs and humongous biceps seem to be the criteria that need to be fulfilled to be one of the “loaded guys” who “you gotta see when they get their highs.”

Strangely enough, there isn’t any “funny” stuff between men and women. The video basically goes as follows: Jad singing in his awful-looking shirt, sexy girls, Jad singing, sexy girls, guys and girls sitting in a group, Jad singing, guys and girls dancing stiltedly at the beach with a whole lot of water. For all this talk of getting freaky with Arabs, no one in the video actually gets freaky with anyone else.

With its over-the-top scenes, such as Choueiri arriving at a nightclub red carpet on a camel, and women injecting themselves with botox in the bathroom, Choueiri’s music video seems to be the poster child for parody. The singer’s handlers insist he is quite serious—inasmuch as pop can be taken seriously.

The idea behind Funky Arabs is to show a different point of view of a segment of the Arabic society,” reads an email from Jad Choueiri’s management to me. “It doesn’t have the pretension to represent the real face of the Arabs like some media has suggested. In a pop song, which is meant to be entertaining and fun, it would be probably inappropriate to display the cultural and social achievements of the Arabs in different fields. So the side that was chosen to be represented is the side that has to do with partying and fashion which is adequate when you are a member of the pop culture community. Although it may sound superficial to some, it is supposed to make us look more appealing to the West by showing that we endorse that type of ‘culture.’ You cannot follow these trends and be a terrorist or a close minded person because they are a representation of a deeper matter, the one of tolerance and openness.

Umm, make us seem more appealing? But who said “they” are all like ‘that?’

My biggest problem with this music video is not the gratuitous amounts of flesh on show by the scantily clad women–which let’s face it, has become the norm in many similar Arabic music videos–but the political implications of Choueiri’s message. Because if not a parody, then the video is certainly a textbook case of cultural appropriation. Listening between the lines, you could well take home the message: the only way we can prove we are not evil is if we try to erase our identities and emulate selective (read: the most materialistic) aspects of Western culture.

Choueiri’s only concessions to Arab culture: bellydancing and shisha smoking, of course! Nothing else we have “over here” is worth anything anyway. The orientalist image is complete once an x-ray machine shows us that a woman is carrying on her person handcuffs, a mask, and a whip. Arabs are all hypersexual, doncha know?

Some people have applauded Choueiri for trying to highlight different types of Arabs. Others have blasted him for portraying Arabs this way. Others shoot him down for the lukewarm lyrics and music—there’s even a dreadlock-sporting rapper who pops up throughout the track, perhaps aimed at upping Choueiri’s street cred.

I agree with the message of the music video: Arabs are not all terrorists. Duh. It’s a message we have to constantly emphasis and a stereotype we have to dispel. But the substitute image Choueiri is hawking is perhaps just as a bad–substituting one extreme for another is never a good thing. As a friend of mine said:

The benevolent Jad is dispelling the bomber stereotype by replacing it with the harem stereotype, the rich-Arab-with-money-to-burn stereotype, and the inferior-Arab-grovelling-for-western-approval stereotype. Right on, Jad.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Bibi's Joke and Expert's Glasses

"If we receive this guarantee regarding demilitarisation and Israel's security needs, and if the Palestinians recognise Israel as the state of the Jewish people, then we will be ready in a future peace agreement to reach a solution where a demilitarised Palestinian state exists alongside the Jewish state," Netanyahu said at Bar Ilan University near Tel Aviv.

"If (Obama) looks at the glass as half-full, this should be sufficient," Israeli political scientist Eitan Gilboa said of the speech as a whole. "But if he is looking for confrontation with Israel, he would say the glass is half-empty."

Reuters - 14/06/2009

As the expert in glasses suggested, this is a remarkable step towards mutual recognition between Israel and Palestine - as equal partners, the first one heavily militarized and the other one demilitarized. Cheers, Eitan! To peace.

Picture: Ramattan - International Middle-East Media Centre

Saturday, 23 May 2009

La Palme d'Or Goes to The Time That Remains

Cannes: Chopard, flashes, L'Oreal, red carpets, VIP passes and people waiting hours behind fences like cows hoping to catch a celebrity autograph... Ha, le cinéma! Glamour toujours.
Wish though, among all that pathetic amount of glitter, Elia Suleiman from the "Palestinian territories" could go back home with one of the prestigious awards.

Film's synopsis by himself
THE TIME THAT REMAINS (2009) is a semi biographic film, in four historic episodes, about a family -my family - spanning from 1948, until recent times.
The film is inspired by my father’s diaries of his personal accounts, starting from when he was a resistant fighter in 1948, and by my mother’s letters to family members who were forced to leave the country since then.
Combined with my intimate memories of them and with them, the film attempts to portray the daily life of those Palestinians who remained in their land and were labeled « Israeli-Arabs », living as a minority in their own homeland.

Click here for more related videos.

As a reminder, this beautiful scene from Divine Intervention (2002)