edited by Anthony Downey –­ Uncommon Grounds: New Media and Critical Practices in North Africa and the Middle East


I. B. Tauris, ISBN-13: 978-1784530358, English, 360 pages, 2014, UK

This anthology of texts finally fills one of the gaps in the (mostly western-oriented) analysis of artistic, social and political media practices. It took two years to finish, stemming from Ibraaz, an online research and publishing forum, and it very successfully covers North African and Middle Eastern new media practices, providing enough context to finally deconstruct the romantic media-hyped idea of sudden “revolutions” that are nourished by corporate social-media. More realistic portrayals of the uses of new media are presented by a wide range of (mostly non-western) authors including Dina Matar, Tarek Khoury, Philip Rizk, Maymanah Farhat, and Timo Kaabi-Linke, as well as experts like Nat Muller and radical philosophers like Franco “Bifo” Berardi. New media, with its capacity for instantaneous visual communication, is a key element in understanding specific cultural and social conflicts in these territories. This book discusses an ample variety of styles: some essays have been reproduced in their original form from online platforms, while others look at commissioned visual art pieces. The political aspects of the book are reflected in Downey’s statement that “images are a battlefield and need to be interrogated and treated with a degree of suspicion as to how they function and in whose interests.” A powerful agenda can be tracked through the texts of this anthology, one that will gain momentum with more efforts like this.