Anti-Imperialist Transnational Feminist Studies theorizes the US war on terror as a racialized, gendered, and sexualized imperialist war that operates through military and economic policy in order to advance and consolidate the system of capitalism. AITFS contextualizes the US war on terror within the restructuring of US domestic and foreign policy, which entailed an expansion of the conjoined heteropatriarchal, racist, and classist structures of the prison industrial complex (PIC) and the military industrial complex (MIC), both driven by the economic neo-liberalism of the late twentieth and beginning of the twenty-first centuries. Historically, the Reagan era’s neo-liberal economic policies and the war on drugs during the decades leading up to the war on terror set this process into motion. Notably, throughout this period, the MIC has worked through a neo-liberal system in which functions of the military were increasingly transferred to bodies outside of the state, including private corporations, subcontractors, and universities. Paralleling this process, the US prison industrial complex has also undergone privatization so that nearly all prison-related service providers are for-profit companies and are sustained by a racist, classist, and heteropatriarchal criminal justice system.
The region has been dramatically—though unevenly—transformed by the privatization and globalization of national economies under the influence of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other advocates of neoliberal policies. Though nominally socialist regimes across the region had begun turning away from statist economic polices in the late 1960s, most Arab states did not begin implementing neoliberal reforms in earnest until the 1980s when the fall in global oil prices precipitated a regional economic slump. For states seeking international loans, monies were conditioned upon shifting economic activity toward export-oriented agriculture, manufacturing, and services as well as selling state-owned corporations to private investors—the standard recipe for structural adjustment. Dismantling the institutions of state-driven development necessarily threatened the professed populism of many of these regimes: Raising the standard of living of people long held down by the colonial yoke was understood to be the first priority of the new regimes. But privatization of industry and agriculture, and the shift to service-based economies, combined with reduced price supports on necessities, rendered life increasingly precarious for urban and rural workers as well as the middle class. Such programs often served parallel regime interests by rewarding political allies with privileged access to formerly public assets and new markets. Even for governments that were not pressured into structural adjustment by supranational bodies (like Bahrain and Syria), privatization was often a means of personal enrichment sold as good liberal economics. In some cases, “privatization” was merely a reorganization of ownership such that certain sectors of the regime remained in control

An excerpt from David McMurray and Amanda Ufheil-Somers, editors, The Arab Revolts: Dispatches on Militant Democracy in the Middle East. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013. Published in association with Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP).

Read a longer excerpt here, along with an interview with the editors.

In the last few months, Algeria has witnessed a frenetic activity of economic and trade delegations visiting the country. In November 2012 alone, Algiers received tens of high profile delegations succeeding each other from European countries such as Spain, Italy, France, the UK, Romania, Finland, and Turkey to Arab countries, including Egypt, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. With its substantial foreign reserves amounting to more than two hundred billion dollars, it seems that Algeria has become a hot destination for foreign investment at a time when Europe is undergoing a deep economic crisis. Even for the highly-mediatized visit of French President Hollande (that some preferred to interpret through the distorting prism of the traumatizing history of colonialism), economic interests were at the top of the agenda.

Fifty years after its independence, is Algeria in a position to impose itself economically? Is there really a genuine will for the development of a true and balanced economic cooperation, advantageous for both Algeria and Europe? Is Algeria in the path of a full-blown economic development that will benefit the Algerian people, or is it merely an Eldorado for the crisis-ridden foreign economies? To answer these questions, a historical detour is necessary to give us more insights and to help us understand where Algeria stands in the global economic order.

In the first two decades following its independence in 1962, Algeria launched an ambitious development project. The aim was to disconnect itself from an unjust political and economic global order that kept it within the dominated periphery and relegated the country to a status of a proletariat nation; on the one hand as a market for the dominant Western economies, and on the other, as a reservoir of cheap labor and natural resources.

Continue reading…

 [The Arab Image Foundation’s archive search page.]
“I Have The Picture!” Egypt’s Photographic Heritage between Neoliberalism and Digital Reproduction (Part II)


The Arab Image Foundation (AIF)—a private archiving initiative founded by a group of artists and collectors in 1997, and run through foreign and local grants—appears on the surface like the very antithesis of the Library of Alexandria in Egypt (discussed in Part I of this article). While based in Beirut, the AIF holds a substantial collection of photographs from Egypt and represents an important model of archive and heritage-making in the region.
The AIF’s approach to preserving and curating its extensive photographic collection is highly professional. Its online database is well presented, described, and sourced. The author and source (provenance) of every image is acknowledged on the main website. Additional information about the technique and size of each photograph appears through the advanced search option once the viewer has registered on the website (registration is free). However, this online database is not entirely immune from criticism, most notably in how its search categories are constructed. Many of the categories are poorly chosen and seem to reflect the database-maker’s own research interests: categories such as “old woman,” “smiling,” or “frowning” are subjective. While information about photographic technique and artifact size is given, there is no indication of medium (e.g., carte postale, carte de visite, part of an album, loose mounted or unmounted print). Such information remains crucial to the social and cultural historian in order to understand the circulation and usage of any given photographic object. Photographs should, ideally, also be scanned with their edges visible. Cropping the edges of a photographic object strengthens its reading as a dematerialised “image,” as it denies a key feature of its “objectness.” In this particular context, cropping the photograph’s edges is one way the AIF translates a three-dimensional social object into a two-dimensional aesthetic text. Compared to the Library of Alexandria, however, and compared to the very poor archiving record of the region in general, the AIF database appears as a breath of fresh air. Despite its shortcomings, it was clearly conceived by archivists (or by artists and photographers who share the archivist and historian’s respect for the artifact) as well as for researchers.


Read more

[The Arab Image Foundation’s archive search page.]

“I Have The Picture!” Egypt’s Photographic Heritage between Neoliberalism and Digital Reproduction (Part II)

The Arab Image Foundation (AIF)—a private archiving initiative founded by a group of artists and collectors in 1997, and run through foreign and local grants—appears on the surface like the very antithesis of the Library of Alexandria in Egypt (discussed in Part I of this article). While based in Beirut, the AIF holds a substantial collection of photographs from Egypt and represents an important model of archive and heritage-making in the region.

The AIF’s approach to preserving and curating its extensive photographic collection is highly professional. Its online database is well presented, described, and sourced. The author and source (provenance) of every image is acknowledged on the main website. Additional information about the technique and size of each photograph appears through the advanced search option once the viewer has registered on the website (registration is free). However, this online database is not entirely immune from criticism, most notably in how its search categories are constructed. Many of the categories are poorly chosen and seem to reflect the database-maker’s own research interests: categories such as “old woman,” “smiling,” or “frowning” are subjective. While information about photographic technique and artifact size is given, there is no indication of medium (e.g., carte postale, carte de visite, part of an album, loose mounted or unmounted print). Such information remains crucial to the social and cultural historian in order to understand the circulation and usage of any given photographic object. Photographs should, ideally, also be scanned with their edges visible. Cropping the edges of a photographic object strengthens its reading as a dematerialised “image,” as it denies a key feature of its “objectness.” In this particular context, cropping the photograph’s edges is one way the AIF translates a three-dimensional social object into a two-dimensional aesthetic text. Compared to the Library of Alexandria, however, and compared to the very poor archiving record of the region in general, the AIF database appears as a breath of fresh air. Despite its shortcomings, it was clearly conceived by archivists (or by artists and photographers who share the archivist and historian’s respect for the artifact) as well as for researchers.

Read more

[Figure 1. “The Wife of Amin Yusuf Bek.” Source: Memory of Modern Egypt website.]

Archiving initiatives and concepts of photographic heritage currently emerging in the Middle East are shaped in very different ways than was the case over the past century. They are conceived along the lines of two models. One is a digitization model, as seen in the Library of Alexandria, which destroys artifacts in order to produce data. The second […] is a model of neoliberal fiefdoms where photographic heritage becomes the privilege of the select few. In both cases, public interest, in the form of open access, and research interests—the two aspects that framed public archives throughout the twentieth century—remain strikingly absent.

Read more on “I Have the Picture!” Egypt’s Photographic Heritage between Digital Reproduction and Neoliberalism (Part I)

[Figure 1. “The Wife of Amin Yusuf Bek.” Source: Memory of Modern Egypt website.]

Archiving initiatives and concepts of photographic heritage currently emerging in the Middle East are shaped in very different ways than was the case over the past century. They are conceived along the lines of two models. One is a digitization model, as seen in the Library of Alexandria, which destroys artifacts in order to produce data. The second […] is a model of neoliberal fiefdoms where photographic heritage becomes the privilege of the select few. In both cases, public interest, in the form of open access, and research interests—the two aspects that framed public archives throughout the twentieth century—remain strikingly absent.

Read more on “I Have the Picture!” Egypt’s Photographic Heritage between Digital Reproduction and Neoliberalism (Part I)