Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Heavy Metal in Baghdad

Slate Magazine reviews the work of researcher Mark Levine, whose new book Heavy Metal Islam follows the emergence of heavy metal music in the Muslim Middle East as a response to both Islamists and the existing governments they oppose. Opening paragraph from Reza Azlan's review:

"Pink Floyd's album The Wall takes on a whole new meaning when brought to life by an Arab metal band in Lebanon. Imagine 100,000 teens—Sunni, Shiite, Christian, Druze—headbanging in sync, pumping their fists in unison, screaming, "Hey, teacher, leave those kids alone!" even as another civil war, waged by their parents, threatens to tear their country apart yet again.

Welcome to the new Middle East, a region where, by some estimates, nearly half of the population is under the age of 25. This is a highly literate, politically sophisticated, technologically savvy, and globally plugged-in generation. It speaks English; it knows its way around the Internet; and, according to historian and part-time metal head Mark LeVine, it wants to rock."

Coming on the heels of one-country-case study documentaries like the one shown in the trailer above, Levine's comparative study sounds like an interesting read. One wonders, though, whether Levine himself is the best intellectual emissary for this emerging political force. Perhaps the heavy metal movement in the Middle East would be better served by more mainstream social scientists also taking it seriously. Then again, what does it say about the nature of political science in the West that it took a former heavy metal performer himself to write a scholarly treatise on the subject?

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