Saturday, July 26, 2014

Intersectionality and Injustice in the Wartime Economy of Aleppo (2013)

Here is an essay I wrote last year for my "Power, Privilege, and Oppression" class at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. I think it's worth sharing, so have a look and see what you think.  

Intersectionality and Injustice in the Wartime Economy of Aleppo

by Sean O’Keefe, May 10, 2013

The countryside is the heartland of the Syrian Revolution. Between the first protests in Dar‘aa in March 2011 and the beginning of the armed anti-regime insurgency in October 2011, the uprising’s primary mode of resistance was mass protest and civil disobedience in rural areas and outlying suburbs. By the time the insurgency began, according to the UN, President Bashar al-Asad’s regime had killed over 3,000 Syrian civilians (BBC, 2011). Yet only two of Syria’s seven largest cities, Hama and Homs, experienced sustained popular resistance in 2011. By May 2012, when the Houla Massacre and the breakdown of a UN-sponsored truce signaled the beginning of full-scale civil war, there were already 10,000 civilian dead and 60,000 refugees in neighboring countries. In the past year, about 60,000 Syrian civilians have died, according to UN estimates (Khera, 2012). Today, 1.4 million Syrians are refugees and even more are internally displaced inside Syria itself. By the end of 2013, the UN projects, three million Syrians will be refugees and 4.5 million will be displaced inside Syria itself (UNCHR, 2013). The result has been one of the greatest human tragedies of the twenty-first century.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Allow Me To Introduce Myself...

Dear Readers,

I started this blog as a hobby in early 2011 to bring the voices of the Arab world's young people, who were calling for dignity, social justice, and a brighter future, to the widest possible audience. I’m happy to announce that I will be continuing these efforts as the Program Manager of the Munathara Initiative at its new headquarters in Tunis, where I will be moving to from Amman at the beginning of August.

Why Munathara? Most Arabs are under the age of 35, but the voices and perspectives of Arab youth are only rarely broadcast on mainstream Arabic news channels. Munathara, an independent, nonprofit, pan-Arab NGO, seeks to change that. The organization brings Arab youth together to debate important social and political issues and broadcasts these debates to audiences on the internet and satellite television. The vision is to create “an open, fair and representative Arab debating forum in which anyone can take part and voice their opinions, regardless of their social status, education or location” and to build a new Arab public sphere where young people have a full say in their societies.

I’m excited about Munathara’s work because I believe that the solutions to the challenges facing the Arab world (and the rest of the world, for that matter) can only be discovered by young people. I’m excited that I will be doing almost all of my work in Tunisian and Modern Standard Arabic. I’m also excited to work with our founder Belabbès Benkredda, our deputy director Christine German, and our amazing staff and trainers. It’s been a dream of mine to live and work in Tunis ever since January 14, 2011, and now I finally get the chance.

For the past three years, you’ve known me only as “Ulysses,” so let me tell you a little more about myself now. My name is Sean O’Keefe. I was born and raised in Seattle, Washington and I studied Arabic and history at the University of Chicago. Among other things, I’ve done work with youth programs in Jordan and Morocco and taught Arabic to underserved students in Seattle Public Schools with OneWorld Now!. I also am a proud member of the Class of 2014 of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, where my studies focused on humanitarian relief and international development. Recently, I’ve done field service in Amman with CARE International’s Syria Emergency Response Team and Identity Center's programming for Jordanian youth. Now, I will be devoting my time and energy to bringing what Munathara can offer to as many new participants and audiences as possible. To learn more about me and why I created my blog, please read my post "Introduction: Welcome!" as well as my "About" section.

I’m writing this post, in part, because I'm asking for your support. A big part of my job will be reaching out to people and getting them involved with Munathara. Donations are always great, of course, but we also need people to spread the word, watch the debates, become participants and supporters, and help us find new ways to make young people’s voices heard. On June 18, 2014, Munathara will be holding its #DD11 debate in Sanaa, Yemen on the motion: “Arab Women’s Participation - Only Through Quotas?” Make sure you check it out and that you keep checking back at in the coming weeks and months. While you're at it, don't forget to keep reading my blogs Revolutionary Arab Rap (for articles) and Revolutionary Arab Rap: The Index (for translations and subtitled videos). I’m working on a few cool side projects, including one to document every female MC making hip-hop in Arabic. Finally, thank you to everyone for their support and encouragement and their interest in my work over the past three years. I'm looking forward to what the future holds.

Sean O'Keefe / Ulysses

Friday, March 28, 2014

Cultures of Resistance: Hip Hop’s Place in Palestinian Resistance

Note: This is an essay I wrote a while back for the May 2012 "Cultures of Resistance" academic workshop at the University of Exeter. Many thanks to Dr. Sophie Richter-Devroe, Polly Withers, and their colleagues at Exeter for inviting me. I've updated my essay a bit and posted it here for you to enjoy.
 What is the Palestinian Hip-Hop Community?
The Palestinian hip-hop community encompasses Palestinian artists from Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, surrounding countries and the worldwide Palestinian diaspora. While marginalization, dislocation, and occupation form the thematic core of Palestinian hip-hop, Palestine’s leading rappers cast their gaze much further. To them, any successful Palestinian resistance must also fight the wider social, economic, and political systems that keep the Israeli occupation and the Middle East's status quo in place. They call for resistance against their own leaders and identify Palestine's struggle with the Arab peoples’ uprisings against their own governments. Revolutionary rappers throughout the Middle East and the world, in turn, are associating their fights against their own societies' social injustices with the Palestinian cause – a process that Palestinian hip-hop artists encourage and amplify.