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Boundaries and Margins

The Making of the ‘Golden Cage’

Eirini Chrysocheri

Abstract

This article focuses on the Greek community of Alexandria, a socially and territorially bounded Diaspora entity that articulates a sense of connection to place through claims of a historically continuous socio-spatial connection to both Egypt and Greece. Through analyses of visual material collected and produced during fieldwork, I explore the spatial and social boundaries of the community before and after Nasser's 1952 revolution and highlight discontinuities in the narratives and imaginings of the city articulated by different generations. Studying the creation of new borders, I reveal how restriction to, and isolation within, the ‘golden cage’ of Greek areas is both willingly embraced and a source of frustration. I conclude by outlining how spatial and ideological boundaries overlap and how they are shifted and defended by Greek and non-Greek inhabitants of the city.

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The Changing Portrayal of Dancers in Egyptian Films

Three Roles in the Career of Tahia Carioca (1946, 1958 and 1972)

Carolina Bracco

Abstract

This article examines the projected image of dancers in Egyptian cinema. The historical background includes the last period of the Farouk monarchy, the revolution of the Free Officers Movement and the Nasser regime, ending with Nasser's death in 1970, when a new social and political era started blossoming. I consider the socio-political changes and their cultural repercussions as part of a dialectic relationship that affects the portrayal of dancers in three films: The Lady's Puppet (1946), My Dark Darling (1958) and Pay Attention to Zuzu (1972). By examining Carioca's roles in these films, I argue socio-political changes in Egypt have been projected on the image of the dancer while also changing it: she is first seen as a working woman, then as an evil woman and finally as a marginalised woman.

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A Film Never Completed

Representing Social Relations in a Mixing Neighbourhood

Regev Nathansohn

Abstract

This is a story and analysis of a film production that has never materialised. The case study features a group of neighbourhood residents who wished to produce a film representing their experiences of living in a mixed neighbourhood in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, where Jews and Arabs live together. The ethnography of their work documents the incommensurability between the social interactions within the group and the content of the film's script. While the group dynamic reflected the mixing atmosphere of the neighbourhood, their script succumbed to the hegemonic discourse of separation in Israel and to steering away from ambiguities. The group's aspiration to create a realistic representation required a political and visual language that was not available as an objective possibility and thus was challenging to imagine.

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Introduction

Visual Anthropology in the Middle East

Esther Hertzog and Yael Katzir

Abstract

This issue demonstrates the potential and unique contribution of visual anthropology to deepening and expanding anthropological knowledge with historical, artistic, cultural and political perspectives. Describing and analysing historical events, daily social life and the arts, the articles offer original interpretations of human experiences and social processes that are part of the Middle East reality, in the past and present. Some authors suggest striving to establish ethnic, cultural and national identities goes hand in hand with struggles for civilian rights and socio-economic equality. Using illustrations and a feminist analysis, other authors reflect on women's marginalisation in the arts and in the historiography of this region. The use of visual materials, highlighting similarities among divergent communities, entails an optimistic view about the potential contribution of arts to break through fundamental dividing features.

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A Resolute Display

Culture, Life and Intersectional Identity in Israeli Druze Photography

Lindsey Pullum

Abstract

In this article, I analyse a collection of photographs from the Israeli Druze village Daliyat al-Carmel during the summer of 2015. I locate these photographs of Druze life within the current movement of Israeli/Palestinian photography and mobilise this photographic archive as a form of decolonisation and visual critique relating to the Israeli state. Through a close analysis of photographs documenting residents and activities of Daliyat al-Carmel from the 1930s to the 1970s, I argue photographs of Druze unsettle dominant tropes within Israeli and Palestinian visual discourse. The result is the production of an expanded visibility, which nuances our understanding of Arab Israeli life after 1948 and the intersectionality of the Druze community in terms of culture and Israeli-Palestinian relationships.

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The South Side of Heaven

A Journey along the Iranian Collective Memory in Iran-Iraq War Memorial Sites

Younes Saramifar

Abstract

I portray mnemonic practices of Iranians who engaged with the past and keep the memories of martyrs of the Iran-Iraq War (1980–1988) alive within frames and words. Through pictures taken during the annual commemoration of martyrs in southern Iran, I show how religiosity, politics and generational guilt are entangled in post-war Iran. I move against the grains of memory studies and visual anthropology by maintaining the silences and what is left unsaid instead of rendering war memories, acts of remembering and ways of seeing epistemologically coherent. I argue remembering is a practice locally shaped according to the politics of everyday life and not by imagined presupposition of memory scholars. Therefore, I draw an ontological approach towards memories in Iran by ways of seeing and religious worldview of those implicated in the Iranian memory machine.

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To Be Black and Beautiful in Israel

Efrat Yerday

Abstract

This article reviews works of contemporary female artists of Ethiopian origin active in the Israeli art field. I analyse the subjects in their work and argue these artists are presenting their attitudes towards the ‘white gaze’. Though constantly subjected to it by the Israeli hegemony and the Western masculine discourse, they are notably decreasing their consideration of it. They broaden the restricted field of action that seems designated for them and alter its boundaries. Drawing on theorists of gender, postcolonial theory and theory of art, I demonstrate how these artists are promoting an agenda that reflects their lives as black women in Israel. Influenced by recent socio-political changes and a decline in representations of black women on TV and in visual arts, these artworks were increasingly exhibited in solo and group exhibitions.

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Why Draw Flowers?

Botanical Art, Nationalism and Women's Contribution to Israeli Culture

Shahar Marnin-Distelfeld and Edna Gorney

Abstract

Botanical art and illustration, presented alongside scientific descriptions, were at the heart of Jewish national projects during the British Mandate in Palestine-Israel and following the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. Looking back, we recognised three prominent women artists who contributed widely to many such botanical projects: Ruth Koppel, Esther Huber and Bracha Avigad. This study aims to investigate the plant images these three artists have created. We will do so by using the approach of visual anthropology while focusing on two main aspects: the connection between botanical illustration and national identity, and the link between botanical art and gender. This study is the first to demonstrate that botanical art in Israeli culture has been gendered, with women doing most of the work, in agreement with findings from Western culture.

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Dreams from Beyond as Politics from Below

The Social Life of Dream Stories within the Hizmet-AKP Conflict in Turkey

Ida Hartmann

Building on ethnographic fieldwork in Istanbul in 2015, this article traces how certain people within the Hizmet community drew on dream stories to understand and manoeuvre within the escalating falling-out with the AKP government. It suggests that, in this context, dream stories were circulated within the community to reframe the conflict against the horizon of the afterlife but prevented from spilling into the wider public sphere out of fear that Hizmet critics would use dream stories to denounce the community as a threat to Turkish republican tradition. The article thus proposes to see the social life of dream stories as a ‘politics from below’ through which relations between the religious and the political refracted and notions of national and religious belonging were negotiated and contested.

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Epilogue

Mapping the Topography of Oppression

Jenny White

During today’s crisis in Turkey, victimhood authorises oppression, oppressors see themselves as victims and the oppressed are not only the poor, but educated middle classes. Citizen and state are imbricated in the same political and discursive fields where people mobilise against one another, some moving up and others down, creating unexpected landscapes of victimisation and oppression that do not fit comfortably in literature that analyses ‘politics from below’. How do we conceptualise this in a way that respects people’s understanding of their coordinates in a complex landscape of power? This article interrogates some basic assumptions of this literature, including the impact of the observer’s position and the oppression/resistance framework, replacing it with a model of politics as a shared horizontal topography of action across a terrain of values.