Book Chapters

Sovereignty for Security: The Paradox of Urgency and Intervention in Yemen

This chapter examines the paradox of urgency and intervention in Yemen since the start of the twenty-first century by exploring the compromising of Yemen’s sovereignty for the sake of security and stability. This paradox stems from the intersection of the US-led ‘war on terror’ campaign in Yemen after 2000 and competing narratives surrounding Yemen’s future since 2011. The United States’ ‘war on terror’ and the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative ostensibly intended to guide Yemen’s political transition and prevent it from becoming a ‘failed state,’ followed by Saudi and Emirati military intervention beginning in 2015, simultaneously denied Yemenis their sovereignty and produced even greater instability in the country. This chapter investigates how such powerful international and regional actors repeatedly employed discourses of security and state fragility to intervene in Yemen in pursuit of their own national security interests. These discourses have produced neither stability nor security and have had disastrous consequences for millions of Yemenis, further denying them the ability to create a future based on national sovereignty.

Echoes of a Scream: US Drones and Articulations of the Houthi Sarkha Slogan in Yemen

This chapter maps the evolutionary process of the Houthi sarkha (‘scream’) slogan, which roughly translates as “God is great. Death to America. Death to Israel. Damn the Jews. Victory to Islam.” The sarkha’s popularity, I argue, underlines the Houthis’ investment in aligning their movement with a growing public search for agency from implications of the US drone program in Yemen. Rather than simply reading the sarkha as a mere indicator of Iran’s influence on Houthis, this work presents the slogan as a local articulation of a consciousness that legitimizes violence as a necessary revolutionary means toward independence and sovereignty. The chapter concludes that although the sarkha may have failed in rallying Yemeni social and cultural politics behind its resistance implications, it nonetheless remains a strong identity marker of Houthis’ sociopolitical and religious community in northern Yemen, which continues vying for power at the cost of the country’s own stability, and ironically, sovereignty.

Youth and Revolution: A Call to Reform Higher Education in Yemen

At the onset of Yemen’s current transformation process, students emerged out of the country’s post-secondary institutions as a contending voice challenging status quo politics that produced unbearable conditions of corruption, unemployment, and disenfranchisement for 30 years. The revolutionary moment was eventually disrupted along partisan, sectarian, and tribal negotiations, often mediated by regional and international power players.

To understand the underpinnings of this disruption, it is critical to underline the paradoxical role of the Yemeni higher education system in producing active yet docile citizens as well as playing a significant role in solidifying trends of socio-political instability and uncertainty in the country. Towards that end, the chapter captures the contours of this paradox by investigating three policy-oriented dimensions in current higher education establishments, i.e. admission policy, teaching methodology, and campus politicization. The significance of this work lies in its critique of the failure of the Yemeni higher education system in producing conditions for students to claim agency and consolidate a front that transcends current counter-revolutionary sociopolitical forces.

Liberal or Imperial: U.S. Discursive Formations of the Muslim Image

Navigating popular conversations around Islam and Muslims across eastern-western socio-cultural and geopolitical terrains reveals a critical site of inquiry that necessitates unpacking the discursive formations of the Muslim image, particularly in the twenty-first century. For a more focused analysis, the chapter proposes a case-study reading of the discourses shaping the popularized images of Muslims in the United States. To properly ground this reading in theory, I suggest an examination of two prominent discourses, i.e., American Orientalism and American Exceptionalism. Then, I explore a conflicting paradox essential to the U.S. global identity that celebrates America as a set of timeless and universal human ideals yet confines to the reality of the United States as a nation-state. It is this seemingly contradictory characterization of the United States–I argue–that misconfigures Americans’ attitude towards and sustains their perceptions, if not misconceptions, of Islam and Muslims; thereby offering a breathing ground to the sensational narratives of Islamophobia and clash of civilizations.

Marked off: Hollywood’s Untold Story of Arabs/Muslims and Camels

The process of downgrading human beings from the category of “human” into “subhuman” and eventually “nonhuman” relies on the tendency to associate them with docile and un-ferocious, if not abhorred, animals. Ottomans viewed Armenians as “cattle,” the Nazis called Jews “rats,” Japanese referred to Chinese as “pigs,” Hutu perceived Tutsi as “insects,” U.S. soldiers saw Filipinos as “gorillas,” while Al-Qaeda affiliates deem Americans “grandchildren of apes and pigs.”

These metaphorical images are born within a specific milieu, informed by certain religious, racial, and political contexts beyond which they are bound to vanish. Within an Orientalist context, Arabs and Muslims have long been a target of such images, perpetuated in Hollywood’s films of which I have traced ninety, produced throughout the twentieth century. In forty-four films, they are vilified as apes, goats, sheep, cows, pigs, dogs, jackals, hippopotamuses, serpents, frogs, spiders, cockroaches, flies, and many other animals. In the other forty-six films, they are constantly denigrated as camels.

This chapter uncovers Hollywood’s long-held perceptions and hidden hierarchical practices by analyzing certain stereotypical, metonymical, and metaphorical images of Arabs, Muslims, and animals, particularly camels. The central argument of this work is: “Arabs and Muslims have undergone three significant processes in Hollywood’s films; processes that have downgraded them from the human sphere into that of animals. The processes are those of denigration, naturalization, and alienation.”