About

24-year-old American living in Cairo. My primary interest and field is modern Middle Eastern politics; while I specialized in Hamas and Hizballah in university, I’ve been increasingly learning and writing about Egypt since I moved here a little over a year ago. I’ve been lucky enough to travel the world from a young age; I’m a huge nerd for languages and language history (I speak Spanish near-fluently and Egyptian Arabic well enough to get around day to day and have simple conversations. I’ve studied many more, but most of them have fallen by the wayside with lack of practice).

I wrote a BA thesis that was an attempt at creating a new approach to understanding Hamas and Hizballah, one that I hope could be more clear-eyed and productive than most of the ways we in the U.S. look at them now. I called it “parallel government theory” and it was nominated for a prize once. You can learn more about that here.

I’m also a fan of a lot of highfalutin academic theory (political science, anthropology, governmentality, et. al.), analyzing pop culture as text, unironically enjoying pop culture, obscure hipster music, sci-fi, a cappella, any story involving girls with big shiny weapons, comic books, and social justice. I am a feminist, and I am currently looking for work, preferably in the NGO world.

2 responses to “About

  1. I stumbled over your article about Peter Caxaro, and would like to know more from you. Why do you say that the ‘Cantilena’ is “both a love poem and a geopolitics poem at the same time”, and that “it counts as Islamic love poetry”? Tks

    • Hi! Sorry for the very late response; I have been neglecting this blog terribly due to graduate school keeping me very busy. I wrote the paper in question almost five years ago now, so without consulting the paper the best I can remember is this:

      I argued that it counted as Islamic love poetry because of its formal similarities with several forms or genres of poetry common in al Andalus, especially popular ones–popular as in “of the people,” not just “well-liked.” (I cannot now remember the names of these forms off the top of my head, though I think the zajal might have been one of them; if you would like further clarification give me another reply and I’ll look it up when I have time.) I argued that transmission of these forms was plausible due to Malta’s time in Muslim hands as well as general circulation in the period, and that they fit Cantilena not only formally but also because it was specifically written in Maltese rather than in Latin (in fact, the first text written down in Maltese–or at least this was the consensus at the time I wrote the paper), i.e. the popular rather than scholarly tongue. Its opening is also highly reminiscent of the traditional opening of the qasida, or Arab ode (though in much shortened form–more like a reference than an engagement with the trope). I should note too that I used the term “Islamic love poetry” specifically because that was the focus of the class for which I wrote the paper; the class was based on the premise that love poetry from all over the Islamic world could and should be studied together, due to its formal and thematic commonalities and certain continuities of imagery.

      I suggested it was a love poem and a geopolitics poem because while it is written as though describing a failed romance, it uses a great deal of architectural imagery. Late Andalusian court poetry (I believe also elsewhere around the same time) relied heavily on architectural imagery to discuss politics–there was a transition from natural to built motifs, and often buildings were used as metaphors for a reign or a royal house. At the time Caxaro wrote the poem, Malta had been through an astonishingly swift number of changes in rulership; it changed hands often and quickly, and was often ruled carelessly or badly as it was usually bestowed as a prize or favor, rather than inherited as a trust. I suggested, therefore, that all the building and architectural imagery in the poem can be read as a kind of geopolitical resentment for the way Malta had been tossed around from careless ruler to careless ruler–or from poor lover to poor lover, metaphorically. There is also a great deal of water imagery that reflects long-standing Islamic motifs of both love and religious transcendence, and my argument was that the poem weaves architectural and liquid motifs together to make a political statement in the guise of a love poem. I don’t mean necessarily that it was some kind of secret code, only that it manages to communicate effectively in both readings at once–no small feat for a very short poem!

      I hope that answers your question.

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