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Poets, Politicians and the People. Exploring a history of dissent in the Middle East


InstructorDr. Alia Mossallam

Peasant petitions in mid 19th century Egyptian villages; Italian migrants creating underground anarchist schools and publications a few decades later in Alexandria; theatres and newspapers as new spaces for dissent by Syrian artists at the dawn of the twentieth century; village women taking their colonial rapists to court on the periphery of revolution; and anti-colonialist struggle vocalised through popular songs in the 1950s and 1960s. Through this course we will explore different forms and strategies of popular resistance in the Middle Eastern region from the late 19th century leading up to 2010 - right before the so-called “Arab Spring”. We will explore moments of dissent that rose in opposition to local and global oppression (such as resistance to WWI) that receive far less attention than the revolutions that mark the calendars as political milestones. The course aims at two things - understanding forms of popular struggle in the face of colonialism, tyrannical states and oppressive global economies; as well as asking how decades, and sometimes a century later we can trace these struggles, despite their invisibility. The students will thus be engaged directly with primary sources (petitions, court-cases, publications, theatre scripts, oral history interviews and songs) from both local and Colonial archives