Lettre Internationale

Denmark

Media theorist and Internet activist Geert Lovink formulates a theory of weblogs that goes beyond the usual rhetoric of citizens’ journalism. Blogs lead to decay, he writes. What’s declining is the “Belief in the Message”. Instead of presenting blog entries as mere self-promotion, we should interpret them as decadent artefacts that remotely dismantle the broadcast model.

Constantinos Doxiadis, the architect who during the 1950s and 1960s built new towns throughout the Middle East and Africa, was a leading figure in US Cold War policy. While hoping to inculcate democratic and free-market values in the developing world, the New Towns failed to take into account indigenous traditions. Today, Doxiadis’s urban neighbourhoods have become something quite different to what he anticipated: Sadr city, Baghdad’s giant slum, for example, where typhoid and hepatitis epidemics rage and which is now the backdrop for a new type of urban warfare. The most that can be said for Doxiadis’s New Towns, says Michelle Provoost, was that they had in mind an ideal – precisely what the US programme to restore democracy in contemporary Iraq lacks.

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In the common Western imagination, the image of the veiled Muslim woman stands for oppression in the Muslim world. This makes it hard to think about the Muslim world without thinking about women, sets up an “us” and “them” relationship with Muslim women, and ignores the variety of ways of life practiced by women in different parts of the Muslim world. Anthropologist Lila Abu-Lughod emphasizes that veiling should not be confused with a lack of agency or even traditionalism. Western feminists who take it upon themselves to speak on behalf of oppressed Muslim women assume that individual desire and social convention are inherently at odds: something not borne out by the experience of Islamic society.