Marwan M. Kraidy, Ph.D., Director of the Project for Advanced Research in Global Communication and The Anthony Shadid Chair in Global Media, Politics & Culture, on September 23 presented "The Revolutionary Body Politic: Corporeal and Digital Dissent in the Arab Uprisings" at the Amsterdam Middle Eastern Studies Lecture Series. Kraidy is a 2014/15 Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study where he is researching Arab creative dissent in revolutionary times.
In this lecture I try to rethink revolutionary communication in the Arab uprisings through the prism of the human body. In the book project from which this lecture is drawn, I argue that the human body is the elemental medium of transgression in treacherous conditions that require acute forms of pliability—it is at the heart of what I call ‘creative insurgency.’ Indeed, the primary materials I gathered for my book are haunted by bodies, burning with anger and defiance, throbbing with pain and hope, brazenly violating social taboos and political red lines. The body is fundamental to the Arab uprisings because corporeal metaphor is central to political absolutism; conversely, the body as a icon, symbol and metaphor is central to political emancipation. This is why bodies aching for dignity haunt the Arab uprisings and fuel the peculiar aesthetics of insurgent art and culture.
The book encompasses a wide range of manifestations of creative insurgency, from self-immolation, to graffiti and street art, to digital video. But in this lecture, I will focus on Arab revolutionary celebrity as an overtly political, inherently transnational phenomenon, infused with corporeal symbolism. Specifically, through the prism of a pitched media battle between the singer Assala and the Assad regime in the Syrian uprising, most of which occurred in the digital realm, a politics of celebrity is explored that pits the body of the star against the body of the sovereign, at the nexus of revolution, transnationalism and circulation across media.