Based on twenty-one months of ethnographic research in the Turkish dizi (serialized television drama) industry, this article explores how dizi makers imagine, classify, and discuss their local audiences and how their creative decisions are predicated on an imagined act of consumption. It argues that beyond RTÜK, the state agency for monitoring and regulating radio and television broadcasts, dizi makers’ audience imaginaries become a constraining force in the production process, affecting dizi makers’ sense of what is acceptable and not acceptable onscreen. I illustrate how despite conflicts between dizi makers and RTÜK officials about what it means to be Turkish, they both share a paternalistic attitude toward audiences, specifically the idea that audiences can be swayed by what they see on TV. While RTÜK’s paternalism is apparent from cuts mandated after episodes have aired, dizi makers’ paternalism is evident in the production process. These paternalistic attitudes emerge from the political discourse produced by the modern Turkish state, whereby the “illiteracy and ignorance” of rural populations were seen as the main obstacle to the reforming missions of the new Republic. I argue that the ways RTÜK and dizi makers imagine their audiences are based on these long-standing notions of modernity and development, in which rural Turkish people are imagined as backward, requiring state institutions and the intelligentsia to civilize them.
As Baghdad’s residents flocked to the city’s new and upgraded cinemas during the last decade of the Hashemite monarchy, cinema spaces witnessed the collision of competing interests regarding rituals of modernity. This paper analyzes the ways in which the Iraqi government, cinema owners, and cinemagoers alike acted upon their own visions for which practices should be deemed modern and appropriate in urban cinemas between 1950 and 1958. Among other noteworthy expressions of modern subjectivities, this study especially seeks to consider the phenomenon in which multiple cinemagoers claimed social guardianship over Baghdad’s cinema spaces by issuing public complaints about dissatisfactory amenities and disruptive audience members. While the cinematic history of Iraq remains largely understudied, some recent scholarship has encouraged researchers to address the relationship between urban modernization, film, and the Iraqi cinema’s role as a local microcosm of global trends. Building upon these works, this paper underscores the efforts of the Iraqi state and cinema owners to materially and immaterially sway their audiences toward modern habits. Furthermore, this study highlights the socio-historical context in which cinemagoers accepted and contested these efforts to preserve Baghdad’s cinemas as modern spaces. This paper argues that both the physical development and social environment in Baghdad’s mid-twentieth-century cinemas influenced cinemagoers as they encountered, embraced, and negotiated with the modernization efforts pursued by the government and cinema owners. In order to investigate how material and social factors impacted these intersecting interests, this paper combines social history with urban design and crime prevention theories. Specifically, this study draws from defensible space and routine activities theory to identify instances of mechanical and collective guardianship as well as transgressions of spatial guardianship in Baghdad’s mid-twentieth-century cinemas. This paper applies these theories broadly to Baghdad’s semi-public, semi-private cinema spaces to include the city’s efforts to not only prevent criminal behavior, but undesirable or unmodern behavior more generally. Arabic- and English-language newspapers, government census data, memoirs, fiction, photographs, maps, and filmed interviews form the core of the sources consulted in this study. By adopting urban crime prevention theory as a frame of analysis, this paper seeks to contribute to the social history of cinematic culture in mid-twentieth-century Baghdad and to suggest a possible avenue for interdisciplinary approaches to illuminate how historical expressions of normative and transgressive behaviors occurred in the same urban space.
“A colonized people is not alone. In spite of all that colonialism can do, its frontiers remain open to new ideas and echoes from the world outside. It discovers that violence is in the atmosphere, that it here and there bursts out, and here and there sweeps away the colonial regime.” – Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth
This paper will be an exercise in thinking both specifically, and more broadly about the pervasive climate of catastrophe in Palestine as an atmosphere of violence. This atmosphere is characterized by Israel’s formidable attempts to control and occupy the skies. Under a settler colonial regime of total spatial, temporal, corporeal, political, and ecological violence, in cordoned off and perforated slivers of shrinking enclaves of “unliveable” life, in the scattered diaspora, in an atmosphere of indigenous elimination, how are Palestinians mediating survivance? The question of Palestine is largely understood through the occupation of the land, but this paper asks how the unruly element of air can offer different material and epistemological opportunities for exit.
I will closely engage with Emily Jacir’s film Letter to a Friend (2019), and Rozeen Bisharat’s not yet released film about the hijacking of the Belgian Sabena airlines flight to Tel Aviv by four Palestinian resistance fighters and her role re-enacting this highjacking in Sabena Hijacking: My Version (2015). Both films gesture towards Israel’s formidable attempts to control and occupy the skies, whether it is through the land, air, and sea blockade and air raids on Gaza, the networked surveillance infrastructures and drone technologies deployed against the Palestinian population both within and beyond Israel’s expanding borders, the American sponsored Iron Dome, or the use of tear gas to poison, suppress, and incapacitate uprisings. Nevertheless, as demonstrated in Jacir’s and Bisharat’s speculative film projects, these militarized borders are more easily subverted and transgressed in the atmospheric unruliness of the (non)terrain of air.
Alongside Denise Ferreira da Silva, I will posit environmental and human crises in Palestine as entangled catastrophes in a planetary “accumulation of atmospheric gases” equivalent to “the extent of expropriation…of lands and labour facilitated by coloniality and raciality.” This paper attempts to tether back together the concomitant effects of racialized settler colonial violence and climate catastrophe by reading closely Palestinian atmospheric interventions in Jacir and Bisharat’s films.
This paper compares the methods by which two prominent Syrian playwrights, Saʿdallah Wannūs and Muḥammad al-Maghūṭ, revolutionized and politicized Arab theatre in the second half of the twentieth century. Examining topics such as the Nakba of 1948, the Six-Day War of 1967, the continuous failures of the Arab Nationalist regimes, and the oppressions and disillusionment faced by Arab citizens, Wannūs and al-Maghūṭ take radically different approaches--serious drama in the former and satire in the latter--in an effort to speak truth to power and shock their audiences out of their political stupor. Wannūs’ play, “A Soiree for the Fifth of June” (1968), is a mise en abyme representing a performance of a play in the aftermath of the 1967 war, thereby allowing the playwright to question the role and function of theatre amidst tragedy and defeat. Conversely, al- Maghūṭ’s play, “Cheers, Homeland!” (1978), uses the overarching premise of a radio broadcast to present tragicomic vignettes that showcase the devastating consequences of dictatorship and tyranny on human life. While Wannūs has been hailed as the most prominent Arab playwright and his work extensively studied in Western scholarship, al- Maghūṭ’s popular satirical plays have been mostly ignored in favor of his ground-breaking contributions to the genre of prose poetry. This paper, however, puts these contemporaries in conversation with each other in order to examine how each playwright employed Brechtian alienation, navigated writing under the censorship of the Baʿthist regime, utilized the political potential of performance to question ideology, and critiqued the political and cultural malaise of Syrian society.