Human Rights Radio

Episode 16: Abounaddara & In Theory on Cultural Appropriation (58min32secs.)

*This episode originally aired on Robin Hood Radio on Friday, September 25, 2015*

Part 1: A Discussion with Abounaddara

This episode features a discussion with one of the members of the anonymous Syrian film collective Abou Naddara. The collective formed before the war in Syria broke out, Since the war, they have described their work as “emergency cinema,” stemming as it does from the current political and humanitarian crisis in Syria.

Abou Naddara make short impressionistic videos, new one is uploaded each Friday to vimeo, often focusing on a single individual, the group’s work depicts daily life in a society wracked by ongoing atrocities.

Abou Naddara were awarded the 2014 Biennial Prize from the New School’s Vera List Center for Art and Politics. A new exhibition, Abou Naddara. The Right to the Image opens at the New School on October 22 and runs through November 11th. You can find out more about the exhibition, and more about Abou Naddara, including links to further readings and analysis, by by going to HRP’s webpage that accompanies this episode at

The collective screened a selection of films here at Bard two years ago. What Abou Nadarra emphasizes in the discussion here is the necessity for the counter-narrative, of the counter-story, to the mediatized depictions of the war in Syria. Yes, a lot has happened in Syria in the these interveneing two years, but the war is unfortunately still not over, and so these questions of how the war in Syria is presented – and how any war is shown, for that matter – remain urgent questions for the collective.

You’ll also hear, over the course of the next half hour, a deeper mediation on the ethics and effects of what Abou Naddara see as a visual media regime wedded to a very narrow aesthetic of conflict, in other words what wars should look like, and how the result of showing almost exclusively images of misery, of violence and its effects, of death – contrary to ‘showing’ us what war looks like, rather obscures and misinforms.

Abou Naddara has attempted to counteract this in their explicit attempt at recovering, in their cinematic practice, a sense of humanity that is inevitably suspended during times of war. This recovery also forms the counter-narrative to the more pernicious and misleading depictions of Syria as a place filled with Islamist fanatics, of Syrian culture being somehow prone to violence,

Do you need to see the images to be able to understand this conversation? I’m going out on a limb that not only is it not necessary, but in some ways using the medium of radio to talk about visual culture.

Visit the Abou Naddara website here.


The Guardian Syrian Video Collective gives glimpse of life during wartime (2014)

The Guardian Behind the Scenes with Syrias “Emergency Cinema” (2014)

Newsweek  written by Charif Kiwan) (2014)

Brooklyn Quarterly  A New kind of Weapon in Syria: Film (2015)

Vice  This Syrian Filmaking Collective shows the Banality of Life (2015)


 NPR Filmmakers Find A Different Way To Show The Syrian Conflict (2015)

WNYC Interview with Charif Kiwan about Emergency cinema (2014)

CBC Radio Syrias Anonymous Filmakers at New Yorks Museum (2014)

Jadaliyya ABOUNADDARA’s Take on Images in the Syrian Revolution: A Conversation between Charif Kiwan and Akram Zaatari  (2014)

Vimeo Films:

Two Minutes for Syria

Prayer in the Dark

Unknown Soldier Part I and Part II

 Part 2: Installment #3 of the In Theory Podcast “Cultural Appropriation!”

‘This time we talk about cultural appropriation: What is it? How can you know? Is eating a taco cultural appropriation? We get into the roles of context, history, and power disparities in answering these questions…plus more on tattoo fails, pop music, some of Urban Outfitters’ most facepalm-worthy designs, and the dangers of “strategic anti-essentialism.”‘

Listen the to episode here.

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