All posts filed under: Essays

O To Live! To Build a Quiet Life: Deep Time, Eschatology and the Anthropocene

ANTONIO. I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano; A stage, where every man must play a part, And mine a sad one. GRATIANO. Let me play the fool! ~The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare The centre, for many, seems not to be holding. Turning and turning in the widening gyre, it appears that we homosapiens have lost our way. The darkness has dropped a thousand times over and still we ignore the tensions between our profound purpose and the brevity of life… On a blue-skied afternoon in London, against the backdrop of a chorus of birdsong and the murmuring happenings of a leafy suburb, I embrace the concept that despite the socially constructed stratification of what is and what isn’t considered the ideal life, there is no real hegemony or hierarchy in one’s approach to and experience of it. To me, to live means to cultivate a quiet life. To engage with the world around us, to build meaningful relationships and to practise the avocations that make us feel most like ourselves. How …

Bedouins, Bolsheviks and Babylon: What world cultures teach us in divesting from modern capitalism

The Bolsheviks, popularising the strand of revolutionary Marxist-Leninist political thought that emerged in Russia during the early 20th believed in the complete political and economic liberation of the Russian working class and the overthrowing of the government to form a true socialist regime. Bolshevism founded and headed by Vladimir Lenin recognised the power of the working class (proletariat) in Russia and the underdevelopment of the ruling class (bourgeoise) and thus the potential for the working class to revolt and advance a classless system of political and economic egalitarianism for all people. Lenin who realised communism would not be immediately obtained in Russia, however foresaw the potential across Europe for the working class resistance and communist ideology to become successful, planning for communism to overtake Russia by degrees. The Bolshevik ideology in spite of its somewhat utopian theory had setbacks in praxis. One of them was the reality of nepotism, favouritism and corruption (also known as nomenklatura) which undermined the revolutionary communist ethos and led to the incapacitation and stagnation of socialist policy on the ground. …

Hana Mahmoud Mohamed Saey: The Soul of Palestine

SANCTUARY Two years ago, for the third year of my History and Arabic undergraduate degree, I had to choose from one of four Arab cities for a year of study abroad. I chose Nablus in Palestine. I had an idea of what my trip might be like. From a distance, Palestine somehow still felt very familiar to me. Palestine was frequently in the news for starters, often at the centre of tensions within the Middle East. But also, as a Muslim, and as the daughter of a Christian mother, for me Palestine was very much at the centre of another type of world too.  JERUSALEM It was just after dawn. Daylight was bleeding into the night sky as the moon began its slow descent into the horizon. Crowds of people quietly rushed through the narrow and winding market streets of the Old City, making their way to the Eid Prayer at Masjid al Aqsa (the Furthest Mosque). Worshipers were dressed in their finest attire and the smell of musk filled the air.  My friend took …

Scent As A Sanctuary: Aromatherapy Amongst The Tuareg

Plants have always played a vital role in the physical emotional and spiritual well being of human kind. The Tuareg of Niger are an example of a people for whom scent plays a major role in everyday life, exchange and kinship. The Taureg are a nomadic people largely scattered across North / Northwest Africa. They can be found in Mauritania, northern Nigeria, Libya, Mali, Burkina Faso, Tunisa, Algeria and Niger. The Tuareg are instantly recognisable as the ‘blue men’ due to the blue cotton turbans/garment (tagelmust) the men wear to protect their faces from the harsh sandy terrain. The Tuareg speak Tamacheq, are largely of Amazigh ethnicity and form a system of clan membership largely practising the religion of Islam. The Tuareg of Niger like many other civilisations before them heavily use the power of aroma, aromatherapy and scent as a part of their sociocultural systems and local sociability. Anthropologist Susan Rasmussen in her 1999 paper ‘Making better scents in Anthropology’ analyses culture from the underexplored standpoint of the circulation of aromas. In her essay, …