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Introduction

Transnationalism and Transgenerationalism in the Middle East and Its Diasporas

G. J. Breyley

Interactions across the Middle East and between the region and the rest of the world have arguably intensified in recent years, from shifts in economic and cultural relations to unprecedented levels and changing forms of migration. In response, anthropologists and others working in the social sciences and humanities have deepened their collective investigation of transnationalism, approaching this theme and the questions it raises in diverse ways (see Alsultany and Shohat 2013; Chatty 2015; Graw and Schielke 2012; Hage 2005; Kearney 1995; Naficy 2003, 1999; Silverstein 2015; Vertovec 2009). Many scholars have explored the limitations of thinking in ‘national’ categories, while at the same time observing the persistence of this way of thinking and its effects on the everyday lives of those who live transnationally or experience ‘the diasporic condition’. Jumana Bayeh (2014: 19) suggests that: ‘Defined by alterity, double consciousness and a fragmented identity, the diasporic condition, like the figure of the foreigner, accepts the dis-integrated subjectivity of the self and in turn exposes the nation-state’s own internal heterogeneity’. The articles in this interdisciplinary special issue variously address these and other aspects of the diasporic condition in several different Middle Eastern and diasporic contexts.

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Iranian Hospitality and Afghan Refugees in the City of Shiraz

Elisabeth Yarbakhsh

Derrida’s hostipitalité formulation provides a framework through which we might begin to explore the relationship between Iranian citizen-hosts and Afghan refugee-guests in the city of Shiraz and the surrounding province. Notions of Iranian hospitality thread through multiple and diverse constructions of Iranian selfhood. Religion, poetry and history speak to what it means to be Iranian, marking out categories of Self and Other and, in doing so, exposing the limits of hospitality in the very spaces that the nation is most acutely felt.

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Leaving the Homeland

Kurdish Diasporic Experience in Binghamton

Aynur de Rouen

Through interviews with Iraqi Kurdish refugees who are currently living in and around Binghamton, New York, this study aims to evaluate details about the impact of the diaspora on these refugees and its effects on the development of Kurdish identity. Specifically, it focuses on the narratives of refugees who have faced physical pressure and violence, cultural assimilation and ethnic cleansing in their homeland, which has left an indelible mark on their memories and identities. Lastly, these notes from the field articulate how collective memory gives voice to the shared Kurdish past, refugees’ experiences in diaspora and the importance of spreading memories of the older generations, particularly to second-generation refugees, in shaping identities and reconstructing place in the United States.

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Linking Ideology, Habitus and Landscape

Traditional and Contemporary Uses of Gardens and Parks in Iran

Nasim Yazdani

For centuries, nature has played significant roles in the Persianate world. Across generations and beyond national borders, Persian gardens and parks have carried traces of narratives, beliefs and attitudes of those who designed, built and used them. This article explores Persian garden history and philosophy, and the emergence of urban parks in Iran. It examines the evolution of cultural attitudes and their reflections in contemporary meanings, layout and use of parks. Landscape narratives both influence and are shaped by shifting cultural values and needs. Urbanisation – and the necessity for urban dwellers to experience ‘nature’ in new environments, sociocultural factors and habitus transformation contribute to the diminution of the role of ‘traditional’ narratives in contemporary design. Nevertheless, the importance of spaces of stillness in landscape design, inherited from Persian garden ideology, influences recreational behaviour in Iran’s contemporary urban parks.

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Reports

Publications, Films and Conferences

Mark Slobin, Joobin Bekhrad, Florian Volm, Farideh Pourgiv, Paul Fox, Weronika Kuta, and Birgit Reinel

Publications

Baily, John (2015), War, Exile and the Music of Afghanistan: The Ethnographer’s Tale and Sakata, Hiromi Lorraine (2013), Afghanistan Encounters with Music and Friends

Films

Tasfiya, Tajikistan, by Sharofat Arabova, 2014

Die Neue (The New Girl), Germany, by Buket Alakus, 2015

Conferences

International Conference on Central and West Asia and Diasporas: The Transnational and Transgenerational, 14–16 March 2015, Inaugural Central and West Asia and Diasporas Research Network (CWADRN) Conference, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

Conference of Commission on Anthropology of the Middle East of the IUAES (International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences), 9–11 September 2015, Cracow, Poland

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Exhibiting 'Migration'

Examples from Vienna

Danila Mayer

In the last decade or so, several projects to exhibit 'migration' were staged in Austria's capital, Vienna. They were undertaken in various contexts: in museums, as part of art shows and in art festivals. These efforts are taken under scrutiny by the author, regarding their production, their way of enabling participation and articulation, and the new perspectives they opened. It is argued that through efforts of formerly excluded groups a change came about in how the figure of the 'migrant', and the various processes of migration, are perceived.

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From Global to Local Heritage

Intangible Cultural Heritage and the Role of the Museum

Janet Blake

Heritage has a dual character whereby it can, at the same time, be celebrated for its outstanding universal value while having a special meaning and value for local and, in particular, bearer communities. Basing protection on the former notion of heritage as a universal, global value has been the dominant approach in international law-making since the second half of the twentieth century. More recently, the significance of heritage to local actors has become much better understood and recognised. The tensions associated with this duality have in recent times become evident with the adoption by UNESCO in 2003 of the International Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. In this treaty, international cultural heritage law-making has shifted from a paradigm that gives value predominantly to the material heritage – monuments, sites, artefacts and other objects – to one that celebrates a living heritage that is primarily located in the skills, knowledge and know-how of contemporary human beings. This article examines the aforementioned shift from an emphasis on global to local heritage and the role museums can play in this with regard to safeguarding intangible aspects of heritage.

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Introduction

Material Culture of the Middle East, Its Intangible Dimensions and New Museums

Janet Blake and Danila Mayer

In this issue of Anthropology of the Middle East, we present contributions that deal with museums, museology and their approaches to the new social situations through which they must navigate. Cutting a swathe very generously around the Mediterranean and the Middle East – from Tunis to Qatar, Turkey and, as an extension, to Austria – we bring together articles that look closely into some acute issues of today: the transformation from colonial to post-colonial and its reverberant impacts, from national to post-national and transnational societies both in Europe and the Middle East, and to the stringencies of material culture, cultural heritage and ‘meaningful objects’, and how to preserve, to analyse and to exhibit them. All contributors dedicate their works published here to the social, cultural and economic changes affecting societies and communities, and to the demands that increasing diversity presents as challenges to cultural institutions and their personnel.

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The Journey of a Tunisian Ethnographic Museum from Colonial to Post-Revolutionary (1936-2015)

Virginie Rey

This article presents an analysis of the evolution of ethnographic museums in Tunisia, tracing their development from the period of French colonial rule until the present. It documents and interprets the trajectory of museography in the country over nearly a century, demonstrating changes and continuities in role, setting and architecture across shifting ideological landscapes, from the colonial, to the postcolonial to the more recent revolutionary setting. It is argued that Tunisian ethnographic museums, both in their processes of conception behind the scenes and in their scenography itself, have been key sites in which to read debates about national identity. The article excavates the evolution of paradigms in which Tunisian popular identity has been expressed through the ethnographic museum, from the modernist notion of 'indigenous authenticity' to efforts at nation-building after independence, and more recent conceptions of cultural diversity. Based on a combination of archival research, participant observation and interviews with past and present protagonists in the Tunisian museum field, this research brings to light new material on an understudied area.

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Reports

Exhibitions, Publications, Films, Music and Conferences

Danila Mayer, Elizabeth Berk, Ali Abdi, Soheila Shahshahni, Latofat Tolibjonova, Trinidad Rico, Hassan Asif, and Fakhri Haghani

Exhibitions ‘Tuzlu Su – Saltwater: A Theory of Thought Forms’: The 14th Edition of the Istanbul Biennial of Contemporary Arts, 5 September – 1 November 2015

Publications Ellen Amster (2013), Medicine and the Saints: Science, Islam, and the Colonial Encounter in Morocco, 1877–1956, Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 334 pp. US$30.00, ISBN: 9780292762114.

Madawi Al-Rasheed (2013), A Most Masculine State: Gender, Politics, and Religion in Saudi Arabia. London: Cambridge University Press. 352 pages. $26.28. ISBN-10: 052112252X.

Films Iran Burger, by Mas’ud Ja’fari Jowzani (2015).

Music Cultural Representations of New Uzbeks: Society, Music, Media

Conferences Islamic Pasts: Research Workshop, 10–11 December 2014, Doha, Qatar

Ethnography of Iran: Past and Present, 2–3 October 2015, Princeton University