Essays and Features

Multiple Pressures From State Repression, Fundamentalist Retribution, Cultural Critiques and Competition From Global Media Choking Off The Voice Of The Arab Intellectual

By 
Elie Chalala
Many definitions of Arab intellectuals are rooted in the idealistic tradition that glorifies them as guardians of values and ethics, as figures closer to “angels” and “faqihs,” who stand above politics and power struggles and enjoy a monopoly over the authority of knowledge. These notions reflect social illusions and popular perceptions of the time when intellectuals were considered part of a sacred class. A recurrent list of names often cited and idealized as intellectuals include Mahmoud Abbas al-Akkad, Taha Hussein, and Naguib Mahfouz. These perceptions clearly distinguish the intellectual from the politician.
 

Corruption, War Denials, and Distorted History Lessons

Etel Adnan

These are days when many Lebanese and non-Lebanese remember the Lebanese Civil War (April 13, 1975). Sadly, the same generation of rulers who had led the bloody battles leaving over 150,000 dead still hold the reins over Lebanon. That is not all — these same warlords continue to wreak destruction through their corrupt and sectarian politics. Even those who were not born during the Lebanese Civil War are witnessing the old elite's evil deeds upon Lebanon. It is no wonder the letter the late Etel Adnan, the renowned Lebanese-American poet, novelist, and painter sent me in 1999 still hits hard today. Even 21 years later, her words capture the ills of Lebanon, its "Corruption, War Denials, and Distorted History Lessons." The artwork accompanying this letter is by the famous Lebanese-American Seta Manoukian, a work — as its title reveals — inspired by the Lebanese Civil War, parts of which Manoukian lived through.

A Book Fair Writes an Old Story: How a Poster — And Regional Politics — Sank Effort to Invigorate Lebanon’s Publishing Industry

By 
Elie Chalala

Book publishers, journalists, authors, and cultural activists received a large blow earlier this month. The anticipated return of the Beirut International and Arab Book Fair was met with disappointment and anger as violence broke out over Hezbollah’s presence through some publishing houses, which many argued overshadowed the spirit of the event. For over half a century, the book fair has held a celebrated place in Lebanon’s culture. Considered the oldest Arab fair, the tradition began in April 1956 at the American University of Beirut, becoming a prestigious event showcasing thousands of titles and visited by tens of thousands for decades since its launch. Not even ceasing during the Lebanese civil war, the only time the book fair was previously canceled was in December 2006 during the anti-government sit-ins in downtown Beirut. The outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020, the explosion of Beirut’s port later that year, and the worsening economic crisis forced it to once again close its doors until the surprise announcement of its return, marking its 63rd session, running from March 3 to March 13.

Beating Up the Already Battered: Modern Arab Media’s Role in Bullying and Harassment

By 
Naomi Pham

Harming, intimidating, or mocking the vulnerable are familiar behaviors; some have witnessed the abuse from afar, while others have experienced it. We used to think of bullying as something that children do in the schoolyard, and ideally something they learn to stop after reflection and normal maturation. But beyond the playground, bullying and harassment serve as standard practice in fields like modern media. Arab media and television promote harmful and offensive depictions to impressionable audiences for higher ratings and money. Media networks also give platforms to regressive messages that cause both emotional and sometimes physical harm.

Poet, Publisher, Painter, and Patron of the Arts: Remembering the Extraordinary Etel Adnan (1925-2021)

By 
Elie Chalala
 
Lebanese-American writer Etel Adnan, beloved by many for her ‘meditative’ voice and colorful language in writing, passed away on November 14 in Paris at 96, leaving behind an evocative legacy of poetry, novels, and art that vividly depicted war, history, and nature.

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