Brotherly Love @ MLA

, Spencer Irvine, Leave a comment

The recent Modern Language Association (MLA) held a session called, “Vulnerable Expression and the Arab Uprisings” to take a closer look at the post-Arab Spring world. Nineteen people attended the session, and the four-member panel was made up of College of State Island professor Suha Kudsieh, Miami graduate student Walter Temple, Nathaniel Greenberg of the University of Washington at Seattle and the University of Arizona’s Carine Bourget.

Temple’s presentation seemed ill-suited for the discussion since he wrote on the gay fantasies and writings of a prominent gay Moroccan writer. His writing, said Temple, introduced “a new era of queer writing in North African literature” and the writer “dreams of a Morocco that evolves” with culture and time. In the writer’s book, the main character “ignites his desire to exercise his queerness” by wanting to have sex with his younger brother.  Temple used the term “sexual tourism” and said that in this book, a Moroccan character from Paris helps the main character exercise his gay fantasies as well as his “fantasized union for his brother.” When his brother planned on getting married to a girl he knew and loved, the main character was disappointed because he felt that his brother had a chance to be with him and to better Moroccan society through new opportunities.

In stark contrast to Temple, other panelists actually discussed the conflict in the Middle East. Kudsieh gave a summary of the current political situation within Egypt and how it has affected television coverage and political satire within the country. One of the top television programmers, CBC, was forced to stop programming that satirized the split between the Egyptian military and their appointed interim government and the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. She said that program writers, as well as their families, have been imprisoned by the current government and Kudsieh accused former dictator and president Hosni Mubarak and his “cronies” of hiding their substantial assets outside of Egypt.

Greenberg’s presentation was similar to that of Kudsieh, in that it was an overview of the post-Arab Spring state of a North African country. Greenberg analyzed the tense political situation in Tunisia, where the Islamist Ennahda party could be trying to create a “moderate” or “conservative” political system if they hold onto power.  But, Greenberg said that “reality tends to resist succinct expectations” of the Islamists and in the end, the political system will most likely “reinforce existing ideologies” of secularism versus Islamist politics. One of the major problems facing Tunisian politics is that it is “impossible to determine whose ideology is radical and whose is not.” Yet, he claimed the Innocence of Muslims video could inflame Muslim tensions within Tunisia, without mentioning the video was supposedly involved in the anti-American terrorist attacks in Benghazi. Greenberg ended his presentation by describing the new, hip political term “technocrat,” which some politicians believe has a magician’s trust or is “an idea and a word so familiar that it seemed” familiar to the Arab dialect. It convinces Tunisians that these are no ordinary politicians, but those they could trust. That is why some politicians and their parties have adopted the phrase that they are “a party of technocrats.”

Bourget focused on how cameras and photography can change the discussion surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict, of how documentaries can illustrate Palestinians’ “non-violent…movement.” She concluded by saying that there needs to be a “fight against some of the abuses of the occupation that could provide a model for peace processes.”