Drawing for a New Public: Middle Eastern 9th Art and the Emergence of a Transnational Graphic Movement (chapter 11)


During the 33-days war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006, Lebanese artist Mazen Kerbaj used to post daily on his blog a series of illustrations about the ongoing war in Lebanon. More recently, during the Egyptian uprising in 2011, Magdy El-Shafee distributed at the sit-in in Tahrir Square a graphic journal he personally illustrated where he criticized the violent assault of the police on pacific demonstrators. Another Egyptian graphic artists, Ganzeer, went even far and directly intervened in the streets of Cairo with stickers critical toward the new military rulers and by drawing several stencils representing the martyrs of the revolution in public walls. These different individuals are all part of a recent but almost still informal graphic art movement that saw its emergence in the last decade in different locations within the Middle East region. They are mainly young educated individuals with different backgrounds: professional graphic designers, illustrators, artists, comics contributors or fanzine authors.

The main importance of this new graphic movement is that it presents different overlapping levels and objectives. As the first editorial of the Lebanese Samandal comic magazine states, main aim is “to lift the stature of comics to that of a mature art form capable of tackling more than superheroes and their baffling hairdos”. Along with the attempt to give the 9th Art recognition within the Middle East, they aim to establish a solid transnational community. New-born Egyptian TokTok comic magazine expresses in its first issue that main objective is to “create crowdedness and a mess of comics, drawn in a free, post modern spirit”.

This regional transnational movement mainly captures the society through the medium and platform of comic magazines, along with online graphic publications in personal blogs or websites. In this case, their agency often turn into a direct intervention in the public space in order to interact with the society and communicate with the potential new public they aim to create.

The objective of this article is to outline the emergence of this movement and to analyze the different forms and branches of such transnational graphic movement that has its epicenter between Beirut and Cairo. Considering the movement’s concern for their society and the attempt to capture its main essence on a social and political level, the paper wants to specifically analyze different cases of interaction of these individuals with the reality of the region, in terms of representation or direct intervention.


Filling the gap: the Colombo arabes emergence as political actors in Barranquilla and the Caribbean region – Revista de Derecho, n°41 – Universidad del Norte, Barranquilla (Colombia)

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This article aims to present through an exploratory research a first prelimi- nary political history of the participation of the Colombian Arabs in local, regional and national politics, with a special focus on the city of Barranquilla and the Colombian Caribbean region. It mainly focuses on the period of time that goes from the 1950s until the end of the 1980s, which is considered as the missing link in order to understand the full involvement of the third generation of the descendants of Arab origins in the political life of the city and the region. These ages were analyzed through the local press, along with the data of the Registraduria Nacional on the local and national elections between 1958 and 1986. The second generation of Arab migrants did not involve massively in politics in these ages, but some figures among them took advantages of the economic crisis and political vacuum in the city in order to achieve important positions of power as local or national representatives.

Y aqui una charla con base en el articulo (in Spanish):


No News from Tehran: HispanTV First Voyage to Latin America Working Paper #31 – Programa Medio Oriente – CAEI (Centro Argentino de Estudios Internacionales)

HispanTV represents the outcome of the last decade increasing relations between Latin America and Middle East countries such as Iran, and it is to be considered as an attempt for Iran to expand its reach to this hemisphere and its narrative to Spanish-speaking people around the world. HispanTV is the last of the news channel to be launched as part of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcaster (IRIB) and the first in Spanish, along with PressTV in English and Al-Alam in Arabic. HispanTV is in line with so-called counter-hegemonic news media, such as Al-Jazeera, TeleSUR or Russia Today, among others. HispanTV officially aims on one side to establish a stronger connection between the population in Iran and Latin America, and at the same time to counter Western coverage of events in the Middle East and Latin America. The channel was launched in a time of increasing relations between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Latin American political allies. The Iranian President travelled around the region several times during his mandates, the last time few weeks before HispanTV was officially launched at the end of January 2012. Considering the strong relation between Ahmadinejad and several Latin America governments, it is argued here that the channel represents a tool of Iranian international geo-strategic relations with the main aim to help shaping a stronger political alliance.

The analysis of the first months of the channel’s programming and coverage of news related to Latin America and the Middle East opens general considerations on the structure of HispanTV and interrogatives on the character of counter-hegemonic channels and their attempt to establish a unified narrative of world events grounded in a strong political alliance.


The Arab Spring is a Latin American Winter: TeleSUR’s “Ideological Approach” and the Breakaway from the Al-Jazeera Network. Global Media Journal. Volume 2, No. 1. Spring / Summer 2012. Special issue: Covering the Arab Spring: Middle East in the Media – the Media in the Middle East

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The Arab Spring represents a breaking point in the cooperation between the pan-Latin American satellite television TeleSUR and Al-Jazeera. Even if in February TeleSUR firmly condemned the closure by Egyptian authorities of the Al-Jazeera Cairo offices, NATO military intervention in Libya and the beginning of protests in Syria provoked an important change in TeleSUR coverage of the Arab Spring. This shift coincided with a departure from the Al-Jazeera network, sanctioning the possible end of a collaboration that always had strong political connotations. TeleSUR joined the cause of the protesters in the coverage of the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings, meanwhile it took what we can refer to as an “ideological approach” in the coverage of the uprisings after the international intervention in Libya, implicitly embracing the official media version of the Arab regimes. This stance sparked controversy especially within grassroots Latin American movements, igniting a strong debate mainly visible on the web. At an international level, the undeclared departure from the Al-Jazeera network reflects the future split between leftist Latin American governments, who embrace and fund the multi-state TV network TeleSUR, and the forces that will come out from the Arab Spring.

Finally, the Arab Spring represented a missing opportunity for TeleSUR to play an important role in global media, and not only for a national or regional audience. Indeed, TeleSUR gave more importance to the political interests of the channel’s founders, than in pursuing a balanced information out of ideological interests or geopolitical strategies.


Reclaiming changes within the community public sphere: Druze women activism, personal status law and the quest for an extended citizenship, in Family Law in Islam: Divorce, Marriage and Women in the Muslim World. London/New York: IB Tauris. Edited by: Maaike Voorhoeve

On fall 2006 the Lebanese Druze community undertook an important reform of its main institutions along with the election of a new sheikh al-aql, the main community religious authority. Pushed by the implementation of new and functioning institutions, a group of Druze women started to publicly reclaim changes within the community by addressing communal authorities on the need to undertake a reform of the personal status law, which they consider as discriminatory with respect to women. By analyzing the claims, forms of actions and achievements of these Druze women activists, this communication aims to shed light on the importance of what is possible to define as “communal activism”, also in consideration of the fact that on many issues the state is left out from mingling within the community sphere, as it is the case of community family law. On the other side, the communication wants to underline the importance of an active and developed community public sphere with well-functioning institutions. The paper aims to generally suggest that the role implicitly given by the political system to Lebanese individuals is to act between the multiple Lebanese public spheres, hence playing a form of extended citizenship.


Revoluciones, transición política y nuevos desafíos del Medio Oriente actual – Universidad Nacional de Colombia – Bogota


Communal Individuals, Secular Identity and Sectarian Games: Sheikh Naboulsi’s Fatwa and the Quest for a Lebanese Extended Citizenship. In Ethnopolitics, Volume 10, Issue 1 March 2011 , pages 77 – 92.

On 20 December 2005, 8 days after five Shiite ministers resigned from Fouad Siniora’s cabinet, Sheikh Afif Naboulsi issued a fatwa forbidding the Shiite community from being represented by anyone other than Amal or Hezbollah members, the only two political parties that represent Shiites in both the Lebanese Chamber of Deputies and in the Cabinet. As a direct consequence, a national-civil lawsuit against Naboulsi was filed by eight Lebanese individuals, of which the majority were Shiite. This study, based on the author’s personal communications with the main actors involved in the case, aims to shed light on the almost publicly neglected community sphere. On the other hand, it shows how Lebanese individuals must divide their identity into a sectarian and national one in order to extend the general Lebanese public sphere. By playing such a form of extended citizenship, the lawsuit filed by these Lebanese ‘communal individuals’ represents a step, a means of contrasting authorities that arise in a sphere that is difficult to hold accountable.


Km2 vs km de soberanía en el espacio público libanés: La comunidad chií, hezbolá y las formas de disidencia dentro del territorio comunitario . In Revista CIDOB d’Afers Internacionals # 91, El Espacio de Libertad, Seguridad y Justicia de la UE. Un balance entre presidencias españolas (2002-2010)

An analysis of the Lebanese public space must be linked to the very configuration of its political system, either in terms of geographical space or in political or social terms. The aim of this article –which considers the case of the Shi’ite community– is to highlight, on one hand, the informal character of community public space in Lebanon, and on the other, to shed light on the role of the individual within it. The community and the public space is analysed here from a perspective that takes into consideration the cases of dissent and freedom of expression within a space which is normally excluded from public debate. The case of the Shi’ite community (and in particular of Hezbollah’s space) exemplifies a specific anomaly that at the same time represents a general tendency among all Lebanese communities. Such an anomaly, especially in times of severe internal political tension, leads to an informal division of the national territory between the different Lebanese communities, which are influenced by informal communal leaders, and this makes it difficult for individuals to freely express their ideas within such a space.


Hurriyyat Khassa: individui e libertà private all’ombra del regime comunitario libanese. In Effetto società civile. Retoriche e pratiche in Iran, Libano, Egitto e Marocco, edited by R. Di Peri and P. Rivetti, Bonanno Editore: Roma (2010)






Entre la guerra i el consens: el paper de la societat civil en l’actual conflicte libanès. In Ambits de Politica i Societat, n° 39 (SUMMER 2008)



Ph.D. thesis in Mediterranean Cultural Studies (MAY 2008)

Find here an abstract and the full thesis (in English)

Espai public i societat civil dintre d’un estat confessional. Els drusos del Liban i les organitzacions de base comunitaria. In El Contemporani. Arts, Història, Societat, n° 35-36 (2007)



Shebaa Farms, a meeting point among Lebanon, Syria and Israel, is a field where the different protagonists collide, each trying to claim possession of the territory. Apart from its strategic importance and its rich spring waters, a clash among identities comes into play, a conflict that develops on different levels: local, national, regional and international. Due to the death of the former Prime Minister Hariri, the “Velvet Revolution”, and the Syrian withdrawal from the Lebanese state, new backdrops will open. All of these imply, Hezbollah’s “Resistance”, who are always being asked for complete disarmament by the international community, and the role that it will play in the new Lebanese state after the elections this June. Presented next, is an analysis on possible implications in the dispute over the territory, and their relations with the Lebanese state and its national identity.(2005)

Amazigh in Marocco: società civile, Stato e rivendicazioni minoritarie

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At present, Morocco is living in the shadows of a strong contrast between the Arab component and the indigenous Berber population. Through a series of interviews in situ, it has been possible to outline how the Berber civil society is organized and is currently promoting its own culture in order to protect it from oblivion. A civil society that, although involved in a national protest movement, is internally confronted, contradicting itself, with huge question marks and strong feelings. (2003/2004)

Download here the article(in Italian)