Moving Through the Interregnum

Yassin al-Haj Saleh in the Syrian Revolution

In: Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication
Sune Haugbolle Department of Society and Globalization, Roskilde University, Denmark

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This article analyzes the iconic Syrian writer and activist Yassin al-Haj Saleh. It analyzes the film Baladna al-rahib [Our Terrible Country] by Syrian filmmakers Muhammad Ali Atassi and Ziad Homsy as a way to explore current debates about revolution, exile and representation in Syria and the Middle East. Homsy and Atassi embrace and use Saleh’s stature as an iconic figure whose embodied meaning functions as an ‘aperture’ to a truth beyond his own person; the truth, in this case, about the Syrian revolution. By using theories of iconicity and revolution, the article interrogates current debates about revolution. What can a revolutionary icon do or say in a situation of apparent defeat? What images of revolution can filmmakers create in a state of what Gramsci called the interregnum, when the old is dying and the new is struggling to be born? It suggests that icons do not only reflect struggle, but also make and remake ideological positions. For the revolutionary project, the key issue becomes what kind of ideological re-making emerges from crisis, and what kind of change to the repertoire of action critique animates.

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