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The Naked Blogger of Cairo: Creative Insurgency in the Arab World, Marwan M. Kraidy

Reviewed by William Lafi Youmans

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As heroic as the Arab Spring protestors were, their hopes for liberation gave way to intensified state repression, repackaged authoritarianism, and horrific wars. Marwan Kraidy, the Anthony Shadid Chair of Global Media, Politics, and Culture at the University of Pennsylvania, invites us to revisit those heady days, not for nostalgic purposes but to recognize the raw, sometimes self-sacrificial inventiveness that Arabs marshal to challenge entrenched rulers. The Naked Blogger of Cairo draws attention to the “creative insurgency” that animated and still defines dissent in Arab political life.

Kraidy enlivens this much-narrated story of desperate, bottom-up resistance by locating rebellious creativity in humanity’s most basic instrument of communication. The body is more than the biological complex of organic matter that composes our anatomical casing. Critical social theorists have examined the many ways power actualizes and is visible on our physical selves. It is not all domination. Bodies are vital instruments of expression when other avenues of voice are foreclosed. Kraidy writes, “freedom is enfleshed in humans” and “concretized through practice” (p. 131).

Arab rebels practice a type of corporeal disobedience by lighting themselves aflame, hunger striking, standing in the way of state officers, an

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