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A Reverse-Engineered Insurrection

A fictional piece by Miriyam Aouragh, published by American Ethnologist

It begins, as it always does, with a lie. By tracking the virus that caused global havoc at the time, its spread could maybe be slowed down. The Tracing App – TA – was announced at that helpless and panicked moment. But for people in particular areas, without access to test kits and prevented from Intensive Care, soon enough the TA approach defeated its own purpose.

The TA was never meant to help flatten the curve for them. The working classes and racially mixed communities were among those designated to be sacrificed in preventing the virus from getting to others, to the more deserving. De Pijp, an old part of Amsterdam, was demarcated as a space to contain this so-called “herd.” Imagine: Your role is to make sure others get immune, by getting ill or dying yourself. It was the pivotal insult to an immense injury.

Meanwhile, critical reports had already revealed the drama unfolding. Some scientists urged society to prepare for a possible pandemic. Some even warned that certain viruses would mutate with new microbial threats. This was ignored by politicians, many of who were on the payroll or in kinship with the military-pharmaceutical-IT corporations. As the pandemic spread, these companies were invited to special “public input” government consultations, almost salivating to sell lab and tracing tools. They were shameless; it was a gory glory. It was too much.

This was an eerie time, and in retrospect it was the point where the scale tipped. Some people thought the pandemic was mektaab, destiny. Many believed it was a sign of God. Some thought it was the Apocalypse. Depending on where your religious outings took you on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, it was Yawm al Qiyama, Judgement Day, or Yom Kippur…

They all shared an intense hogra, a humiliating kind of hurt. But there was an additional force, a shared intuition that something was going to happen, shaped by that hogra. And a kind of courage stemmed from the sense of being expendable, of having nothing to lose. This is the backdrop to how a few years ago, a moment of incredible serendipity was born during the worst ever pandemic in living memory.


Credit: Georgie Hodges, used with kind permission

Miriyam Aouragh


Dr. Miriyam Aouragh is a Reader at CAMRI. She has studied the implications of the internet as it was first introduced (“Web 1.0”) in Palestine (PhD, University of Amsterdam, 2000-2008) to understand in particular the significance of techno-­social evolutions by analysing how a new technology coincided with the outbreak of a mass uprising (Second Intifada 2000-2005). She then focused on the political role of new internet developments, such as blogging and social networking (“Web 2.0”) for grassroots activism in Lebanon and Palestine (Postdoc, Oxford Internet Institute, 2009-2011). After earning a Leverhulme Early Career (UoW, 2013-2016) funding Miriyam set-up a critical research project in which she relates theory with online analysis through a focus on the complex revolutionary dynamics in the Arab world. In these new techno-social relations, marked by revolution and counter-revolution, she researched and wrote about the paradoxical context of online-revolution and cyber-imperialism. During fieldwork in Palestine, Jordan Lebanon and Morocco, she combined participant observation and interviews with media analyses and throughout her academic projects and collaborations in general, she relates online studies and observations with ethnographic (offline) methodologies, and theoretical focus on critical race, political-economy and infrastructures. Miriyam theorizes how the contradictions of capitalism shape the modes and meanings of resistance in the era of revolution and digital transformations. Her work is published in several books and journals (see Publications) including her own monograph Palestine Online (IB Tauris 2011), forthcoming book on Cyber Imperialism (2021) and monograph about the (r)evolutionary dynamics of protest in Morocco (2022). Miriyam teaching about internet, (global) media, (Middle East/race) politics and anthropology. She welcomes and supervises PhD students.


8 September 2020
Published By
American Ethnologist
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