art of resistance, India, Iran, Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia

Five For Friday: Conversations With History.

Conversations With History was conceived in 1982 by Harry Kreisler, as a “way to capture and preserve through conversation and technology the intellectual ferment of our times.” It’s a great series which includes over 500 interviews. Here are five of my favorites concerning various issues related to the Middle East (although there are more than just five great ones, of course).

1. Conversations With History: Tariq Ali

Tariq Ali talks about the creation of Pakistan, issues with India, and the dysfunctionality of the state today. He also talks about Israel, drawing parallels between states with strong religious and ethnic identities and the way that identity cripples them.

2. Conversations With History: Juan Cole

Juan Cole talks about journalism and academia, the way his life changed after the years he spent in Beirut and how he came to do his academic work on Islam.  He also talks about his great blog Informed Comment and the idea behind it.

3. Conversations With History: Amira Hass

Famous Israeli journalist Amira Hass talks about Israeli occupation, Palestinian terrorism, and the consequences of the conflict for the daily lives of both Israelis and Palestinians.

4. Conversations With History: Andrew Scott Cooper

Andrew Scott Cooper discusses his book The Oil Kings. Focusing on the geopolitics of the Middle East in the 1970’s, the book centers on the complex relationship between Nixon, Kissinger and the Shah of Iran. Revealing the contradiction between the Shah’s dependence on the rise of oil prices and the need to fund his new military role, Cooper explains how this contradiction resulted in the Shah’s downfall and the implosion of Iran.

5. Conversations With History: John L. Esposito

John L. Esposito, the author of Who speaks for Islam?, talks about the diversity of the Muslim world, extremism, and the complex forces shaping Islam and its relationship with(in) the West.

• • •

Previous Five For Friday:

Iraq War Documentaries

Graphic Novels on Israel & Palestine

Lectures and Interviews on Middle East & Islam


art of resistance, Israel, Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Palestine

Walk the (Green) Line by Francis Alÿs.

Francis Alÿs is a Belgian artist who has created a diverse body of artwork that explores urbanity, spatial justice, and land-based poetics. In 2004 Alÿs walked along the armistice border in Jerusalem, known as ‘the green line’, carrying a can filled with green paint. The bottom of the can was perforated with a small hole, so the paint dripped out as a continuous squiggly line on the ground as he walked. 


© Francis Alÿs

Sometimes doing something poetic can become political
and sometimes doing something political can become poetic.

In this work the artist walks the Green Line through Jerusalem, a temporary cease-fire boundary created initially by the UN after the Arab-Israeli war of 1947–48 but redrawn by the Israeli authorities in 2004 as a more permanent barrier that incorporates gains made at the expense of Jordan after the Six Day war in 1967.

Alÿs restricted his walking to a 15-mile stretch through a divided Jerusalem, a hike that took him down streets, through yards and parks, and over rocky abandoned terrain. In a film of the walk made with Julien Devaux, Philippe Bellaiche and Rachel Leah Jones, he seems to attract little notice. He takes no sides, he makes no political statements – he’s just walking, pointing out things without words.

Shortly after this walk, a filmed documentation of the walk was presented to a number of people whom he invited to react spontaneously to the action and the circumstances within which it was performed. Video interviews from The Green Line include talks with Rima Hamami (Jerusalem – anthropologist), Albert Agazarian (Jerusalem – historian),  Yael Dayan (Tel Aviv – member of Knesset), Jean Fisher (London – art historian),  Ruben Aberjil (Jerusalem – activist), Amira Hass (Ramallah – journalist), Nazmi Jobeh (Jerusalem – architect), Eyal Sivan (Tel Aviv and Paris – filmmaker), Eyal Weizman (Tel Aviv and London – architect), Michel Warschawski (Jerusalem – activist).

Watch it all, it is much more than just  “artsy stuff”, Alÿs and his socio-political intervention bring attention to great issues that became so normal, so familiar, that we even forget that they are issues. Let us be reminded, let us act.