On this week’s Middle East politics podcast, Marc Lynch has a conversation on creativity and the Arab Uprisings with Marwan M. Kraidy. “I felt paralyzed when the Arab uprising started unfolding. I saw the focus back then on on social media to be missing something and I did not know quite what I felt it was missing,” said Kraidy.
“So I did not write anything. I started thinking about it.” Kraidy spent a year in Beirut, traveling the region and collecting items that showed people creatively expressing dissent, like leaflets, media, and taking photos of graffiti.
From that research, he wrote his latest book, The Naked Blogger of Cairo: Creative Insurgency in the Arab World, which looks at radical and gradual activism in the modern Middle East. “The main argument that I make in the book is that this kind of political creativity is nearly always collective,” said Kraidy.
With the tense situation in many Middle Eastern countries, Kraidy acknowledges that creative insurgency often goes dormant for periods of time. “There is such a thing as war fatigue, so the thing with this kind of creative energy is that it goes underground. But it’s always there and it waits for activists. It waits for auspicious opportunities to emerge,” said Kraidy.
“They can also be overground, but typically not in the Middle East. If you go to Berlin, Amsterdam, or New York, you have so many of these graffiti artists you know they may be doing designs for Louis Vuitton, or they may be having a residential fellowship at MOMA, but they’re still practicing their skills. They’re becoming more well-known. They’re writing comic books about the revolution. I don’t think these energies are lost. They’ve been redirected.”
Kraidy says that these creative dissidents’ locations away from the region matters, “But not not as much as would would have mattered in revolutions past, where if you’re not there you’re just not there. I think people are waiting for the right opportunity.”
Marwan M. Kraidy is the Anthony Shadid Chair in Global Media, Politics and Culture, and Founding Director of the Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication (CARGC) at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, where he is also affiliated with the Middle East Center. Currently he is also an Andrew Carnegie Fellow.
Read more from Kraidy:
Global Media Studies