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Heather Raffo and Mahira Kakkar in Wormholes For Sale At the Corner Bodega. Photo: New York Rep.
Articles, Current Issue, Volume 9

Civilization Is but A Veneer: Locating Yemen for the Western Stage

Civilization Is but A Veneer: Locating Yemen for the Western Stage
By Hani Omar Khalil 
Arab Stages, Volume 9 (Fall, 2018) 
©2018 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center Publications

Even within the parade of horrible events that has troubled the Arab World in the years since 2011, Yemen stands out for its starkness, its brutality, the ways in which it implicates the West. More catastrophically a humanitarian vacuum than Libya, more removed from the Western (and even Arab) imagination than Egypt, and more directly a proxy fight between outside powers than Syria, Yemen has endured over a period of seven years, every bad narrative of a region already overwrought with them, sustaining revolution, sectarianism, civil war, drone strikes, epidemic and now famine.

Of course, the very notion that a broad analytical frame can be applied to a region stretching from the Gulf to the Atlantic and deep into the Sahara is one that must be challenged and denied at every opportunity. But Yemen, historically the poorest of the Arab countries, with a rich oral tradition but a nascent literary and theatrical one, carries a far more urgent call to the stage than to simply challenge the Western eye. It asks for engagement, to be known for the basic fact of its existence, and to be salvaged before it disintegrates into dust, bones, and ruin.

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