The Politics of Love

The Politics of Love : Sexuality, Gender, and Marriage in Syrian Television Drama

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Dramatic miniseries are the primary arena for the expression of postcolonial Syrian culture and artistic talent, an arena that unites diverse aspects of artisanship in a struggle over visions of the past, present, and future of the nation. As the tour de force of the television medium, blossoming amidst persisting authoritarianism, these miniseries serve as a crucial and complex artistic avenue through which political and social opposition manifests. Scholars have tried to come to terms with a highly critical culture produced within attempted state co-optation, and argue that politically critical culture operates as a "safety valve" to release frustrations so that dissenters are less likely to mobilize against the government. Through research fueled by a viewing of over two hundred and fifty miniseries ranging from the 1960s to the present-as well as an examination of hundreds of press reports, Facebook pages, and extensive interviews with drama creators-this book turns away from the dominant paradigm that focuses on regime intent.
When turning attention instead to the drama creators themselves we witness the polyphony of voices employing love and marriage metaphors and gender (de)constructions to explore larger issues of nationalism, self-identity, and political critique. At the heart of constructions of femininity are the complications that arise with the symbiosis of pure femininity with authentic national identity. Deconstructing masculinity as political critique has been less complicated since it is not implicated in Western identity issues; on the contrary, illustrations of subservient masculinity serve to subtly denounce government corruption and oppression. Miniseries from the 1960s demonstrate that the focus of the qabaday (tough man) on female sexuality comes from his own political alienation vis-a-vis the state, and is part of a vicious cycle of state violence vis-a-vis the citizen. In recent years, and in particular after the uprising, we can see the emerging definition of the true qabaday as one who does not suppress a woman's sexuality, thereby allowing for full equality in relationships as the basis of a truly free society.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 508 pages
  • 154.94 x 228.6 x 38.1mm | 939.99g
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • New
  • 3 Tables, unspecified; 24 Halftones, black and white
  • 0739184296
  • 9780739184295

Table of contents

Introduction: The Televisuality of Syrian Popular Culture Chapter 1: The Politics Behind Syrian Television Drama Chapter 2: Political Parodies and Embattled Masculinity: Prison and Marriage Metaphors in Early Syrian Television Drama and Theater, 1960s-80s. Chapter 3: Marriage Metaphors in Contemporary Tales of the late 1980s and 1990s: Fighting the Dictator Within Chapter 4: The Development of the Politics of Qabadayat and the State in Early Historical Fiction Genre (1990s) Chapter 5: Fantasy of the Masculine Hero: Qabadayat Fighting Colonial Power in the Bi'a Shamiyyeh (Old Damascus) Genre (2000 Onward) Chapter 6: Subordinate and Subversive Masculinities as Political Protest in Bi'a Shamiyyeh Historical Tales Chapter 7: Embattled Masculinity in Contemporary Tales: The Crisis of Qabadayat Chapter 8: On the Trials of Love and Sexuality before Marriage in Contemporary Tales Chapter 9: Cultural Deconstructions of Femininity and Self-Identity in Marriage in Contemporary Tales Afterward: Drama Preparation Amidst an Uprising: Debates, Challenges, and New Directions
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Review quote

It is refreshing to find a book on Syria, especially at this crucial time, which deals with culture and entertainment rather than violence and suffering. Still, author Rebecca Joubin is not indulging in escapism for she rounds off her review of half a century of Syrian TV series by evaluating the effects of the current civil war on their production and subject matter. If one was ever tempted to shrug off Syrian 'musalsalat' as soap operas, The Politics of Love proves that they are much more. Scripts exhibit a high quality of writing since most of the writers are poets, novelists and journalists. Moreover, in contrast to many telenovelas, Turkish or otherwise, Syrian TV drama seeks not only to entertain, but to find remedies for society's problems. In Joubin's opinion, they are a diversified gage of changing social mores, an exposure of corruption, poverty and injustice, and often a coded critique of the government. ... Joubin, who chairs the Arab Studies Department at Davidson College, North Carolina, lived in Syria for a number of years where she immersed herself in the cultural scene while researching this book. Her obvious passion for the 'musalsalat' and concern for the cultural creators she writes about, make her book quite engaging... Joubin's research is totally unique, and The Politics of Love will be fascinating for all those interested in the topic. In the introduction, she expresses her hope that 'the reader will come away with a sense of the beautiful humanity present in Syria-of a remarkably cultivated, vibrant and diverse intellectual capital, which is unfortunately lost in current media depictions of war and bloodshed.' (p. 21) In this, she certainly succeeds. Jordan Times In The Politics of Love, Davidson College's Rebecca Joubin focuses on an often-overlooked medium: the dramatic TV series, or musalsal. After viewing over 250 episodes from the 1960s on, Joubin argues that musalsalat are a principal manifestation of Syrian culture and expression, that they highlight the political and social climate in Syria before and after the ongoing uprising, and that they reveal political and social resistance. Joubin explores how Syrian actors and content creators pursue issues of nationalism, identity, and politics through metaphors as a result of the limitations that the Syrian regime imposes on the television industry. Scholars of Syria, art, culture, and gender dynamics will enjoy The Politics of Love. Middle East Journal Rebecca Joubin is the perfect guide to understanding Syrian society and love. This introduction to the rich history of Syria's entertainment industry over the last 50 years is full of drama and startling insight. Joubin lived in Syria for almost a decade, married, ran an art gallery, and befriended the country's writers, actors, and directors. She reveals how, with cunning, humor, and surprising success, Syrian artists jousted with dictatorship and challenged their own notions of sex, marriage, and manhood in the hopes of building a freer and better society - even as they were accused of cowardice and collaboration. -- Joshua Landis, Director, Center for Middle East Studies, and University of Oklahoma
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About Rebecca Joubin

Rebecca Joubin is assistant professor and chair of Arab studies at Davidson College. Her articles in Arabic and English have been published in the International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Arab Studies Journal, Radical Society, The Cairo Times, al-Kifa al-Arabi, and al-Mada.
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