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Land in Revolt

Eco-criticism and the Roots of Resistance

Rachel Webb Jekanowski


In this article, I examine the politicization of natural resources like water and land, and the wider entanglement of environments and politics, in Egyptian cinematic imaginaries. I focus on Youssef Chahine’s film al-Ard (The land, 1969) and its politicization of agricultural land during the presidency of Gamal Abdel Nasser (1954–1970) and the British colonial occupation of Egypt (1882–1956). Because histories of colonialism and nationalism in the Arab world are rooted in the economic and political exploitation of material resources (including land, water, and people), I draw on eco-criticism as a method of critical reading to analyze the film’s depictions of these configurations of political power and resource management. I argue that al-Ard roots its depiction of the resistance of the Egyptian peasantry (fellahin) in environmental terms, namely, restrictions to resource access and the affective relationships of the peasants to the land. By tracing these imbrications, I seek to relocate environmental concerns in scholarship on political resistance with reference to Nasser-era cinema.

Hala Auji


Taking up an analysis of the materiality of the American Mission Press (AMP) bilingual catalogs printed from 1884 to 1896 in Ottoman Beirut, in this article I identify these booklets as publications that circulated among broad networks of books, journals and newspapers during the period of the Arab nahda. By examining these catalogs in terms of the wider historical significance of their materiality, specifically their organization, layout, typography and illustrations, in this essay I show how these booklets promoted the AMP and its mission’s entangled messages in an increasingly competitive publishing industry. On the one hand, the catalogs highlighted the AMP’s ‘western’ qualifications and strove to engage local readers’ interests in ‘modern’ culture, science and technology. On the other hand, these works marketed the mission’s universalist evangelical views. Thus, in this study I show how such ephemeral publications, when studied for their dynamic content, make evident nineteenth-century Arabic print commerce at work and also illustrate early examples of nascent advertising practices.

Visualizing the Painful Past

Reel Reconciliation Institutions

Taieb Belghazi and Abelhay Moudden


Conventional social science studies of state violence privilege ‘instrumental’ approaches in which the main focus is on rational and calculated acts of state violence that operate as a means to achieve specific ends. In this paper, we use six Moroccan feature films on the subject of violence as an introduction to ‘expressive’ dimensions of state violence, the set of meanings it expresses and the affects it triggers. Fictive as they are, the films highlight key issues pertaining to the topic, issues that have remained insufficiently addressed by social scientists. These issues include the cultural meanings of retributive justice for state perpetrators, political betrayal, political innocence, the multiple aspects of activism and resistance and societal reconciliation. The films not only trigger pertinent intellectual dilemmas, they also offer a ‘fictional framing’ of political reconciliation in which the family operates as the ‘weapon of the weak’ and the locus for restoring a lost past order are shattered by state violence.