Jonathan Neale writes: We start with a theatre, and two moments of astonishing gender transgression. One happened in a theatre on a hillside in the center of Athens on a spring day in late March of 431 BCE. The second happened there sixteen years later, in March of 415 BCE. Both took place as the audience watched tragedies by the poet Euripides. These plays were about gendered oppression, sexual pain, rape, slavery and the horrors of war.Continue reading
Based on the experiences and incidents she collected during her field studies in Syria, anthropologist Nancy Lindisfarne wrote Dancing in Damascus, a collection of short stories, in the late 1980s.
[This review first appeared in German here in the Austrian socialist magazine Linkswende.]
Nancy Lindisfarne actually wanted to use the visit to a fellow student in the Syrian capital Damascus as an introduction to studies on the working class there. By chance, she got caught in the middle of the marriage policy of a wavering middle class, which fluctuated between tradition and “modernization” according to the Western model. In nine short stories, she describes the everyday life of a society under dictatorship, tells of the search for identity, gender roles, and the struggles for a self-determined life.Continue reading
Nancy Lindisfarne writes: Last week in Koblenz, Germany, a former Syrian intelligence officer, Eyad al Gharib, was found guilty of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity. It is an important verdict. It has formally exposed the scale, and appalling horror, of the crimes of the Syrian regime.
“We shall not surrender until the world shatters” are the first words of the song that the crowds of the Civil Disobedience Movement have been singing on the streets of Myanmar this week. The songwriter Naing Myanmar wrote the words in 1988, in the midst of the Democracy Uprising of that year, to give heart to the people on the street. The words are important. So is the three fingered salute shown above, borrowed from the uprisings in Hong Kong and Thailand, and ultimately from The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins trilogy about a revolution. Here are the words of the song: Continue reading
Nancy Lindisfarne and Jonathan Neale
Yesterday, at Biden’s inauguration, we saw a moment that marked a turning point in the history of poetry in English. We saw also how three women marked and lived the contradictions of a turning point in the history of the United States.
Joe Biden’s speech was never going to be the centrepiece of the event. He does not have the skills as an orator. More important, the politics of compromise he brings to this moment could not do justice to the passions of the movement that put him there. So the weight of the moment fell on the shoulders of the artists, two singers and a poet, three women, one white, one Latina, one black, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Amanda Gorman. Continue reading
Nancy Lindisfarne writes: For forty-six years the Assad regime has ruled Syria with murderous brutality. A measure of this brutality was the quelling of a popular uprising against the regime in the city of Hama in 1982. Assad (the father) bombed and killed some 20,000 Syrian citizens. Or perhaps 40,000 – the violence was so comprehensive and effective that it has never been possible to establish exactly how many perished. The massacre in Hama and the violence of the Assads’ secret prisons served to terrify the population and kept people quiescent. Until 2011. Continue reading
Nancy Lindisfarne writes:
The Syrian painter and printmaker, Rida Hus-Hus, died in Mannheim, Germany on the 30 July 2016 at the age of 77. His courage, uncomplicated generosity and celebration of all that was beautiful is to be remembered and cherished. His life drawings and portraits reflected his affection and interest in other people. Through still-life drawing and flower pictures he celebrated the joy of quotidian detail, while his vibrant pastels captured the sweeping landscapes outside of Damasus, and literally painted Syria in a most beautiful light. Yet Rida was also intensely political in the dangerous environment of the Assad dictatorship, and to keep himself sane, and preserve the independence of his art, he lived an extremely modest and cleverly managed life. Continue reading
Nancy Lindisfarne writes: The lunar month which began in mid-June this year is the Islamic month of Ramadan, the month of fasting and charity. This is a story to mark Ramadan, and one day in the life of Basima. At forty five, she is still unmarried, on the shelf, and as the youngest daughter of a large Syrian family, she has become the sole carer of her elderly, difficult mother.
This short story is set in Damascus in the 1990s, where I did a year’s anthropological fieldwork among well-to-do Damascenes. For me, unlearning academic writing and writing fiction was a lengthy and salutary experience. The impetus came from my anger and exhaustion at countering simplistic, popular stereotypes of Arab or Muslim women and men as fundamentalists, terrorists, or both. My hope then was that the stories might be a way to reach an audience beyond the academy. Continue reading
Nancy Lindisfarne and Jonathan Neale write: There are three keys to thinking critically and clearly about class and gender. The first is to avoid thinking that there are essential ‘men’ and ‘women’. The second is to understand gender as relational – between men and women, but also between dominant and subordinate men, and between dominant and subordinate women. The third key is to remember that we are not actually unique, bounded individuals. Rather, we are social animals who are fashioned and exist only through exchange and social interaction.
These ideas are familiar to us in our everyday lives. However, it is easy to forget these ideas when ideologies of gender overwhelm us. The point of this Sing-Along is to make it easier to hang onto these ideas when gendering gets rough. Continue reading
For Valentine’s Day, here is something light – a story by Nancy Lindisfarne from DANCING IN DAMASCUS, her collection of short stories about Syria in the 1990s (SUNY, 2000).
‘Come on. I’ll help you if you want.’ Rana grinned. She was lively, shiny, like her curly dark hair. And she was a gorgeous shape. So he didn’t really mind that she was also saying he was hopeless, the kind of guy who didn’t have the gumption to buy a Barbie doll for his kid. Continue reading