From Extreme Metal to Islamic State

From Extreme Metal to Islamic State

When I set out to do ethnographic research on extreme metal for my doctorate in the mid-1990s, it was the transgression that fascinated me. I wanted to immerse myself in a culture dedicated to musical celebrations of the dark side, that flirted with sonic oblivion, that stared into the abyss. More»

Azans in UKIP Country

Azans in UKIP Country

On Sunday afternoon, I participated in an act of theatrical protest at Nigel Farage’s local pub: the George & Dragon in Downe. During the “Beyond UKIP Cabaret,” I recited the azan over a loudspeaker, while wearing a red-and-white keffiyeh. More»

Nowhere to Hide

Nowhere to Hide

As I was preparing to spend a year abroad in Germany, I agonized over one of the tips my exchange student organization had sent me. It encouraged us to photograph aspects of the United States that wouldn’t be familiar from watching American movies and television. But what came to mind for me were the homeless people I saw on every trip to Washington D.C. More»

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Pakis for Life

Pakis for Life

Although I chose to live in London for graduate school, I did not come here of my own volition. My relocation to Europe is in stark contrast to the enthusiastic feelings I originally had when I shifted my Emirati-Canadian upbringing to New Jersey for undergrad. More»

The French Holocaust

The French Holocaust

“No European country has been more interested than France in the nature of memory and history, how it is understood, recorded, perceived, written and transmitted.” So writes Caroline Morehead in her new book, Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France, and with some justice. More»

Orientalism For Dummies

Orientalism For Dummies

Most of the time, the point of education is to help us to distinguish between things, figuring out what does and doesn’t belong together. But there are times when it pays to remember what ignorance once conflated and confused. Prejudice may derive from misunderstanding, but that doesn’t make it any less real. And prejudice, more often than not, comes from a failure to recognize and respect distinctions. More»

The Rojava Revolution

The Rojava Revolution

While other areas of Syria have descended into ruin, the Kurdish-majority provinces of the northeast have been relatively calm. This owes to the governmental ascendancy of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), which is administering the so-called “Rojava Cantons” within a framework of democratic confederalism. More»

Anti-Communist Jazz

Anti-Communist Jazz

It’s taken as a truism that “foreigners” love America. They just don’t particularly like the US. That is, American cultural exports are often popular the world over, even in places where the United States isn’t popular. Acutely aware of this disjuncture, Washington has often sought to use cultural diplomacy to close this gap, pitching its movies and music in order to win over its critics. More»

Berlin at War

Berlin at War

Kein mensch ist illegal. Refugees welcome here. Few cities can claim as much pro-asylum messaging as that found in Berlin. Spray-painted on the sides of buildings, stickered inside public restrooms. It’s absolutely everywhere. Considering the diverse character of the city, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. The German capital is as much a global metropolis as it is a national one. More»

No Insurance

No Insurance

It took us a few seconds to figure out what was happening. One minute my host brothers had been hurling snowballs towards the roof of an apartment building, and the next we were being assaulted by a blur of a man, shirtless but a little sweaty despite the fierce cold. He landed one punch, missed another, then turned to charge at me. “I don’t have insurance,” I shouted in German, More»

The Fourth Party

The Fourth Party

What was once unthinkable has become a reality. Nigel Farage will be partaking in the TV debates in the run up to the 2015 election, alongside David Cameron, Nick Clegg, and Ed Miliband. Perhaps the mainstream media concluded that the only way to keep political discourse alive was to inject Farage, and report on the consequences. The lesson is obvious: It’s impossible to ignore UKIP, and its rise to fourth party status. More»

Sunni Death Cult

Sunni Death Cult

Last March, in response to allegations of blasphemy from a Christian man in Lahore, a crowd of demonstrators torched over a hundred buildings in a Christian neighbourhood of the city. Authorities responded swiftly, reprimanding and arresting those who took place in the violence. More»

Hollaback Hysteria

Hollaback Hysteria

Over a week on, and hundreds of think pieces later, it would seem unnecessary to explain that the Hollaback video refers not to Gwen Stefani’s Hollaback Girl, but to the video entitled 10 Hours of Walking in New York City as a Woman, produced by Rob Bliss Creative for Hollaback, an international organisation dedicated to ending street harassment against women. More»

Missing in Berlin

Missing in Berlin

Newsstands aren’t what they used to be. Onetime indicators of high circulation periodicals, today, their selection tends towards a combination of promoted titles [think advertising placement, pushing readers online] and community newspapers. Berlin’s newsstands oftentimes lean towards the latter, offering titles in multiple languages, ranging from Albanian to Turkish. More»

Head in Ass

Head in Ass

Like millions of other Americans who made the decision — or mistake, depending on your point of view — to donate money to Democratic Party candidates in the past, my inbox was filled with messages for months warning me that only the generosity of ordinary citizens like myself could prevent a Republican landslide in the midterm elections. Sometimes these requests bore an air of reasonability. But most sounded desperate. More»