Saturday, September 04, 2021

New publication: "Sounds of Resistance," in Voices of the Nakba


I have a piece in this new book, about to be released from Pluto Press, edited by Diana Allan. 

The book is already a winner of an English PEN Award 2021.

 And here is a description:

During the 1948 war more than 750,000 Palestinian Arabs fled or were violently expelled from their homes by Zionist militias. The legacy of the Nakba - which translates to ‘disaster’ or ‘catastrophe’ - lays bare the violence of the ongoing Palestinian plight.

Voices of the Nakba collects the stories of first-generation Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, documenting a watershed moment in the history of the modern Middle East through the voices of the people who lived through it.

The interviews, with commentary from leading scholars of Palestine and the Middle East, offer a vivid journey into the history, politics and culture of Palestine, defining Palestinian popular memory on its own terms in all its plurality and complexity.

News: interviewed by Insaniyyat (Society of Palestinian Anthropologists)


Very honored to have been interviewed by Anna Tsykov of Insaniyyat about my work on Palestine, and in particular, my book about the 1936-39 Revolt. Listen here.  

Here's what they say about it: 

Ted Swedenburg is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Arkansas. His first book, Memories of Revolt: The 1936-39 Rebellion and the Palestinian National Past, is a study of popular memory based on oral interviews with elderly peasants living in Palestinian villages in the Galilee and the West Bank. Since his first book, Dr. Swedenburg’s research has focused on popular music in the Middle East and North Africa. He has also taught at the American University in Cairo from 1992 to 1996. In this episode, Anna Tyshkov spoke with Dr. Swedenburg about his first book, questions and methods of oral history and its relationship to power and the peasant class. They also discuss current politics, and the unified Palestinian resistances surrounding events in May 2021. Dr. Swedenburg shares his personal reflections on the debts of solidarity, and his experience of fieldwork in Palestine.

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

kufiyas and Hawaiian shirts: Boogaloo boys (#kufiyaspotting)

 More in the theme of the military or "tough guy" kufiya. Kufiyas show up all the time when far-right, white power militias mobilize. At Charlottesville, Amon Bundy's 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, the Oath Keepers and other fascists fighting with 'antifa' in Portland, and so on. This has so much to do with US wars, with veterans from Gulf War 1, Iraq and Afghanistan, who got into kufiyas while abroad -- whether because they were very useful, given the environment, or they just thought they were cool, or they functioned as a kind of "sympathetic magic," a putting on of a garment identified with the enemy that serves to endow one with potency. Kathryn Belew's essential book Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America, shows how important, since Vietnam, veterans of US imperialist adventures have been to the growth of the white power social movement. No wonder, then, that we frequently see kufiyas in all the far-right mobilizations of the last few years. (I've documented the phenomenon quite extensively here, but don't have time right now to put in all the links to previous posts -- you could do a search!)

 More photos of white power kufiyas to come!

This photo is from the New York Times, Sunday, January 31.

#kufiyaspotting, Tahrir Square, 10 years ago

 courtesy Rasha Latif

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Nubia: the expulsion

“Hajj Elias holds picture of himself playing oud before Tahgeer [removal” [photo: Nour El Refai]

Amazing photo from an article in, "For the National Good: Casting out Egyptian Nubians," by Gehad Quisay, November 17, 2017. On the current struggles of Egyptian Nubians, but also with historical background. Egyptian Nubians were removed from their historical homeland in 1964, due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam and the flooding of their villages and farmland. The article, alas, tells us nothing about Hajj Elias.


Monday, September 28, 2020

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Echoes of Vietnam: "Cheeseburger," Sandy Bull, Hamza El Din


I only "discovered" (really, because a friend turned me onto him) Sandy Bull fairly recently.  My pal burned a CD or two of Sandy Bull for me, and then I found his 1972 Demolition Derby at a vintage record store, and of course bought it. What had intrigued me about Bull was that he was very eclectic and that his eclecticism included playing the oud, in addition to his basic folk instrument, the guitar.

I was intrigued by this note from the back of the Demolition Derby album. 



 Just a small anti-war message, from the era of massive opposition to the Vietnam War, on a modest "folk" album. When you hear the album, you hardly notice it, it's just 2 seconds long, and sounds like a scratch, or a quick movement of the needle across the vinyl.

I did some hunting around, and it turns out that the "Cheeseburger" is better known as the "Daisy Cutter," the name for the BLU-82, a 15,000 pound "conventional" bomb. According to wikipedia it was used in Vietnam to flatten a section of forest into a helicopter landing, hence the name "Daisy Cutter." (This of course was how the US military described its uses, and you can find video clips on the web that describe it in this way.) But wikipedia also tells us that it was used against the Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese troops in Laos in 1971, and by the South Vietnamese army in 1975. They were later used in the Gulf War in 1991 -- "as much for their psychological effects as for their anti-personnel effect." 

Check out what Newsweek wrote about the BLU-82 and its effects in Kuwait in 1991.

"The men of the Eighth Squadron believed that the BLU-82 bomb could send an even more powerful message. In the early-morning hours of Feb. 7, Maj. Skip Davenport's MC-130E Combat Talon cargo plane lumbered off the runway. In its belly sat the massive bomb. Behind Major Davenport, a companion plane lifted off, carrying another BLU-82 (Davenport and his wingman became known as the Blues Brothers).

The day before, their target area had been rained with leaflets warning the soldiers below: "Tomorrow if you don't surrender we're going to drop on you the largest conventional weapon in the world." The Iraqis who dared to sleep that night found out the allies weren't kidding. The explosion of a Daisy Cutter looks like an atomic bomb detonating. In the southwest corner of Kuwait that night, an enormous mushroom cloud flared into the dark. Sound travels for miles in the barren desert, and soon Iraqi radio nets along the border crackled with traffic. Col. Jesse Johnson, Schwarzkopf's special-operations commander, cabled a message back to the U.S. Special Operations Command headquarters in Florida: "We're not too sure how you say 'Jesus Christ' in Iraqi." A British SAS commando team on a secret reconnaissance mission near the explosion frantically radioed back to its headquarters: "Sir, the blokes have just nuked Kuwait!"

The next day a Combat Talon swept over the bomb site for another leaflet drop with a follow-up message: "You have just been hit with the largest conventional bomb in the world. More are on the way." The victims below didn't need much more convincing. The day after the BLU-82 attack, an Iraqi battalion commander and his staff raced across the border to surrender. Among the defectors was the commander's intelligence officer, clutching maps of the minefields along the Kuwait border. The intelligence bonanza enabled Central Command officers to pick out the gaps and weak spots in the mine defenses. When the ground war began Marine and allied forces breached them within hours." (emphases added)

It was also used against the Taliban and al-Qaida early in the Afghanistan War, in an effort to destroy cave complexes as well as to demoralize enemy fighters. It was used at Tora Bora! Last dropped, in testing in Utah, in 2008. 

What about Sandy Bull and the oud? He picked it up after he met Egyptian Nubian artist Hamza El Din in Rome in the early 60s (Hamza was studying music there at the time). They met up again in New York City, roomed together for five years, and in that apartment Hamza El Din recorded his second album, Al Oud (Vanguard, 1965) and Sandy Bull recorded his second album, Inventions for Guitar & Banjo (Vanguard, 1965). As Hamza El Din told SFGate in 2001, Bull was far ahead of his time, doing what we would term "world music" long before it became a popular genre, by the 1980s. His experimentations were not all that successful, at least in the marketplace, and his recording career was in hiatus from the mid-seventies until the late 1980s. He passed away in April 2001. (For more details on Bull, please consult the SFGate article, linked abovve.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

#kufiyaspotting -- Palestinian Communists in Israel

 This is from the anthropologist Sharif Kanaana's article, "Survival Strategies of Arabs in Israel," published in Merip Reports #41 (October 1975). It is based on research he conducted in Israel in 1969-70 for his dissertation. Kanaana received his PhD in Anthropology from the University of Hawaii. Kanaana began his teaching career at Birzeit University in 1975; he has since retired, I'm not sure what year.

The quote is from his discussion of what he calls the "middle peasant" survival strategy of the Arabs in Israel. (Interestingly, he does not use the term, "Palestinian," which has more recently become the preferred nomenclature: rather than "Arabs in Israel" (state language), "Palestinian-Israelis" or, "Palestinian citizens of Israel."

I'd love to find some photographs of Israel's Palestinian Communists garbed in kufiyas, from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. If you've got a clue as to where I might find some, please let me know.

Monday, August 24, 2020

#kufiyaspotting: Roy Wood (The Move, Electric Light Orchestra, Wizzard)

Roy Wood (The Move, Electric Light Orchestra, Wizzard) sporting a kufiya, at The Village Underground, New York, March 2002. Shared at by member El Reet. Courtesy my pal Tim. (Not sure who the guy on the right is.)