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Angoulême focus on Arab comics

In France, a new exhibition on Arab comics launches at the Angoulême Comics Festival.

France’s 46th Angoulême International Comics Festival, which closed last week, included a special focus on Arab comics, according to Olivia SnaijeBookwitty‘s English-language editorial manager in Paris and Publishing Perspectives contributor.

As Snaije writes at Bookwitty, traditions of cartooning in the Arab world can be traced to the 19th century. In the modern era, “The lead-up to the Arab Spring and its subsequent failings has galvanized the comics scene, also giving rise to women cartoonists such as Nadia Khiari, known as Willis from Tunis, and many others, in what was a traditionally male-dominated area.”

An exhibition, The New Generation: Arab Comics Today, opened with the festival and is scheduled to be on view until November 4 at Angoulême’s Museum of Comics on Quay Charente.

The official catalogue of the exhibition was published Friday (February 2) by Alifbata, and is available now with its text in both French and English. The volume features more than 40 of the artist-authors from the exhibition, as well as three critical essays that contextualize the frequently challenged place the comics sector has held in the Maghreb and Levant.

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I was terribly wrong’ – writers look back at the Arab spring five years on: The Guardian

Five years ago the Guardian asked me to evaluate the effects of the Tunisian uprising on the rest of the Arab world, and specifically Syria. I recognised the country was “by no means exempt from the pan-Arab crisis of unemployment, low wages and the stifling of civil society”, but nevertheless argued that “in the short to medium term, it seems highly unlikely that the Syrian regime will face a Tunisia-style challenge”.

That was published on 28 January 2011. On the same day a Syrian called Hasan Ali Akleh set himself alight in protest against the Assad regime in imitation of Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation in Tunisia. Akleh’s act went largely unremarked, but on 17 February tradesmen at Hareeqa in Damascus responded to police brutality by gathering in their thousands to chant “The Syrian people won’t be humiliated”. This was unprecedented. Soon afterwards, the Deraa schoolboys were arrested and tortured for writing anti-regime graffiti. When their relatives protested on 18 March, and at least four were killed, the spiralling cycle of funerals, protests and gunfire was unleashed. In 2011, I wrote that Assad personally was popular, and so he remained until his 30 March speech to the ill-named People’s Assembly. Very many had suspended judgment until that moment, expecting an apology for the killings and an announcement of serious reforms. Instead, Assad threatened, indulged in conspiracy theories, and, worse, giggled repeatedly.

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We are living in post-normal times: Ziauddin Sardar on the Critical Muslim, Arab Spring and ISIS

The News on Sunday interviews Ziauddin Sardar, the author of Mecca

Ziauddin-SardarZiauddin Sardar on the catalyst for the Arab Spring: The truth is that nobody likes to live under a dictatorship. It’s a wrong assumption that the Arabs were happy with their dictators over the last forty years. They were agitating for democratic reforms in various ways.

The question is why did they succeed now and not before. This is because we are in a very specific epoch of human history, made unique because of a number of things. Now every generation says its era is unique. In the swinging 1960s, they claimed to have discovered environment and sex etc. But we have to look at it in a slightly longer term and see things that are peculiar to our times. One is the whole question of change. Earlier on, things changed over centuries, then decades, but now things are changing very rapidly and the rate of acceleration is very fast. The speed of change that we are seeing now is phenomenal and, in some cases, breathless.

Second, we have never been so connected as a human community in our history. Almost everyone in the world is connected to everyone else through various communication technologies like media, email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the 24-hour news channels.

Third, everything is globalised and the globe in a sense has shrunk. So this scale, speed of change and connectivity are unique phenomena of our times and together they make up a complex system. Most of our problems are complex, whether they are political, social or economic. Continue reading

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Video: Prof. Vijay Prashad on the 2011 NATO bombing of Libya, the rise of ISIS and the crisis in Palestine

Vijay Prashad is professor of international studies at Trinity College. He is the author of several books, including Arab Spring, Libyan Winter and, most recently, The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South.

Watch the full video/read the transcript here

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Book review: ‘Diaries of an Unfinished Revolution’

Philip Seib reviews Diaries of an Unfinished Revolution edited by Matthew Cassel, Layla Al-Zubaidi and Nemonie Craven Roderick (Penguin) for Dallas News

Those of us who watched and commented on the 2011 Arab Spring mostly from afar were able to embellish our wisdom with references to geopolitics and the flow of history. Once we arrived in the region of revolution, however, theory meant little; we saw that the issues at hand involved life and death. Courage was everywhere around us, even when it was tinged with despair.

Diaries of an Unfinished Revolution captures that courage on page after page. This is a collection of firsthand reporting from women and men who ran through alleys, hurled rocks at police and knew fear and joy as their lives changed. Some of them are from countries such as Libya and Egypt, where the rebellions were widely reported. Others vent their frustration because the struggles in their countries, such as Bahrain and Algeria, have attracted little attention from the rest of the world.

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Tariq Ali: What is a revolution?

Tariq_AliWishing for the Syrian civil war to be a revolution doesn’t make it so, writes Tariq Ali in Guernica.

Ever since the beginning of the Arab Spring there has been much talk of revolutions. Not from me. I’ve argued against the position that mass uprisings on their own constitute a revolution, i.e., a transfer of power from one social class (or even a layer) to another that leads to fundamental change. The actual size of the crowd is not a determinant—members of a crowd become a revolution only when they have, in their majority, a clear set of social and political aims. If they do not, they will always be outflanked by those who do, or by the state that will recapture lost ground very rapidly.

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The Singapore Writers Festival 2012 comes to a successful conclusion

The 15th edition of the Singapore Writers Festival came to a successful conclusion on Sunday (Nov 11) after the closing debate in the festival pavilion.

The raucous debate’s motion was ‘Sinking roots here is little more than shopping and eating.’ The debate’s participants included aunty killer Adrian Tan,  Gwee Li Sui, Lye Kah Cheong, the ‘Return to a SexyIsland’ writer Neil Humphreys, Ovidia Yu and Zizi Azah. The views in the discussion ranged from the flippant to the intellectual and the speakers dissected the Singapore identity with complete chutzpah. Nothing was spared: Singlish, cheap foreign workers, low birth rate, the Singaporean obsession with makan and shopping, the Chinese expats’ love affair with condos, the Indian expats’ penchant for everything East Coast, the Ang Moh’s passion for the OrchardTowers, the variety of sex scandals in the city and the set ways of politics in Singapore. The audience lapped the humour up and blew the roof off of the festival tent with applause and mirth.

Closing the festival, Paul Tan, the festival director, characterized this year’s debate as tongue-in-cheek, ‘colourful’ and a bit ‘off colour’ too. In his remarks, he thanked all local and foreign writers who participated in the festival and applauded the audience for their support, despite the rain and bad weather, adding that he refused to apologise for the rains as it was an act of God.

In parting, he encouraged the attendees to support local writers. “If you don’t buy the books of our local writers, who will?” said Tan. He said that he looked forward to audience support next year and promised that the future festivals will be a mix of order and chaos just like this year’s.

Following the debate, the participating writers of the festival had a two-hour long closing party where they interacted with each other and their fans. Kinokuniya bookstore offered a special 20 percent discount for all the books on display on the last day.

A successful festival

Over the years, the Singapore festival has been growing in size and prestige. This year more than 150 local writers and 50 international writers participated in the event. Some of the top literary draws this year were American author Michael Cunningham, Taiwanese author Huang Chun-ming, Booker Prize-shortlisted author Jeet Thayil and globetrotting travel writer and novelist Pico Iyer.

Some of the sessions this year were so well-attended that there was not even standing room for some disappointed attendees. Snaking queues of autograph hunters were seen for authors like Cunningham and Iyer.

The topics discussed in the festival were not just literary. The heat of political debate marked the sessions of Catherine Lim, Marina Mahathir and Cherian George. Veteran journalist P N Balji and George talked about his (George’s) new book on mainstream media in Singapore, Freedom from the Press: Journalism and State Power in Singapore and discussed how the mainstream media had become less relevant because of the arrival of the new media. However, the mainstream media still played an important role and the OB markers for Singapore media have become more flexible, the two panelists claimed.

The festival accommodated nearly 200 panels, and the issues that were discussed ranged from culture, sports, food, crime, media and politics to sex. There were also a few panels that highlighted the Arab literature and what was happening in that part of the world. Lilia Labidi of Tunisia, political cartoonist Khalil of Iran-US, and Hisham Bustani of Jordan talked at length about the Arab Spring and presented a very optimistic picture of the region’s future. Referring to the Arab movements for freedom, Khalil said that ‘the genie is out of the bottle’ and it is very difficult to set the clock back—the people in Arab have awakened.