Frances Saunders talked about how the Central Intelligence Agency created the Congress for Cultural Freedom in 1947 as a secret program of cultural propaganda in Western Europe. The program focused on creating and sponsoring pro-American arts and literature. Following her remarks she answered questions from the audience.
Frances Saunders is the author of The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters, published by the New Press.
The article that first sparked Saunders’ interest in this subject can be read here: Abstract Expressionism, Weapon of the Cold War.
Last summer I travelled in Morocco (where I used to live) in order to write an essay for the Maghreb issue of the Critical Muslim, which I also edited. This essay is available in full online (for free). To read the other essays, stories and poems (and there are some truly brilliant ones) you’ll have to buy the issue (available on Amazon) or subscribe. Please support the journal/ magazine by encouraging your local library/ college to subscribe.
Morocco’s Arabic name, ‘al-Maghreb’, emerges from the root gh-r-b, which denotes concepts including the west, distance, and alienation. ‘Ghareeb’ means strange. ‘Ightirab’ means living outside the Arab world, whether in the west or the east. ‘Maghreb’ also means sunset, dusk, the evening prayer, the time at which the daily fast is broken. Al-Maghreb al-Arabi refers to the entire Arab west – Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania, the Western Sahara – but Morocco has no other name. It is al-Maghreb al-Aqsa, the furthest west, the strangest.
The ancient Egyptians believed they spent the afterlife wandering ‘the Western Lands’. William Burroughs, who lived in Tangier, wrote a novel inspired by the notion. When I lived in Morocco, teaching English at the turn of the century, a Syrian woman of my acquaintance used to play on the word like this: la tustughreb, anta fil-maghreb or, Don’t be shocked, you’re in Morocco! On this return visit I heard the same phrase from the mouth of a Moroccan man in a train.
But shocked I was, a little bit, twelve years ago.
I’d been living in the mashreq, the Arab east, before I arrived, and (foolishly) I expected the maghreb to be similar. I found a much more liberal place, one much less subject to taboo. For instance, depending on class and region, a Moroccan girl with a boyfriend is not quite the social catastrophe it would be further east. Moroccan sleaze is not hidden away (which is perhaps, overall, a good thing). I once almost pushed my son in his pushchair past men engaged in a sexual act, not in a dark basement but among the trees at the side of a main road. Several times I walked past the same exhibitionist in central Rabat. There were police nearby but they ignored him. And I frequently saw ragged street children sniffing glue-soaked rags, more of a South American scene than an Arab one. (I didn’t see that on this recent trip). In addition to public taboos, Moroccans lack the softness and eloquence, the courtliness, of the eastern Arabs. But they also lack the airs and graces, the intense class resentments, the hypocrisies. You don’t feel everyone is judging everyone else as you can do in the east, at least not in the same way, not to the same extent.
Then there were the contradictions, or perhaps the diversity, better put, of language, ethnicity, culture and, most of all, class. Parts of the big cities were comparable to Europe in their lifestyles and aspirations. Some of my students went to French-language schools, spent their holidays in Europe, and spoke French at home. Meanwhile much of the countryside was consigned to illiteracy and grinding poverty. There was almost no modern infrastructure out there. The people didn’t speak French. Some didn’t speak Arabic either.
Again I was on All Things Considered, a BBC Radio Wales programme, talking with Nadim Nassar, Bishop Angelos, and Harry Hagopian about Muslims, Islamists, Christians, Syria and Egypt. Follow the link to listen (it may only be available for a few days).
Samuel Bowles on Economics and Cooperation
Samuel Bowles, Gary Becker, and Milton Friedman on the Failure of Socialism
Pedagogy of the Oppressed: Noam Chomsky, Howard Gardner, and Bruno della Chiesa (Askwith Forum – Harvard Graduate School of Education).
Reconsidering a Classic: Walter Rodney’s “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa”
The seminar on March 19, with commentators Pius Adesanmi and Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, focused on Walter Rodney’s influential and much debated book, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, originally published in 1972. Rodney was a Guyanese scholar educated first at the University of the West Indies and then at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. His pioneering work focused both on the slave trade and on the European colonization of Africa. Rodney was also active politically in Guyana, where he was assassinated in 1980 at the age of thirty-eight.
An excellent présentation by Ken Roth of Human Rights Watch (begins at the 5:45 mark):
Doctors, Faith, and Peace Leaders Gather at UN to Announce International Solidarity Hunger Strike for Syria, Demand Lifting of Military “Starvation Siege”
On Friday, January 10, at 10:00 a.m. a working group of leaders representing the Syrian American Medical Society, the Syrian Nonviolence Movement and the Minnesota-based Friends for a NonViolent World will hold a press conference in the United Nations Plaza to announce an International Solidarity Hunger Strike for Syria, a major global campaign, and to demand the lifting of the starvation sieges of dozens of Syrian towns that are preventing hundreds of thousands of Syrians from eating or getting medical treatment.
To address the background of the siege, they will be joined by Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch and Dr. Annie Sparrow, an expert in complex humanitarian emergencies at Mount Sinai Global Health Center. Leaders representing interfaith and peace organizations will express their support for the hunger strike.
- Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch
- Zaher Sahloul, President of the Syrian American Medical Society
- Mohja Kahf, Member of the Syrian Nonviolence Movement & Professor of Middle East Studies at the University of Arkansas
- Dr. Annie Sparrow, Pediatrician, Teacher in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies, Professor at Mount Sinai Global Health Center
- Haris Tarin, Director of the Washington, DC office of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC)
- Rev. Chloe Breyer, Executive Director of the Interfaith Center of New York (ICNY)
- Leila Zand, Fellowship of Reconciliation