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About Mark LeVine
Mark LeVine is Professor of modern Middle Eastern History at UC irvine and Distinguished Visiting Professor at Lund University's Center for Middle Eastern Studies. He has spent the last twenty years living, researching, reporting from and performing in the Middle East, North and sub-Saharan Africa as well as throughout Europe, including Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and the Persian Gulf. His research involves over half a dozen languages, including Arabic, Hebrew, French, Italian, Turkish, Persian and German, and is known for its pioneering inter-disciplinary and transregional approach, combining the latest theoretical and methodological advances in fields such as history, anthropology, sociology, political science, comparative literature and cultural studies with a strong grounding in classical texts and the European intellectual history.
LeVine received his BA in comparative religion and biblical studies from Hunter College. His MA and Ph.D. were done at New York University's prestigious Department of Middle Eastern Studies. Beginning his career as a specialist in the modern history of Palestine and Israel, he also worked as a journalist since the mid-1990s, reporting from Israel and the Occupied Territories for Tikkun magazine and several newspapers, before becoming a regular guest on leading news and interview programs on Fox, CNN and then al-Jazeera English and Arabic after the September 11, 2001 attacks and subsequent US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq (where he was one of the first independent and unembedded scholars to visit the country after the US invasion). From the start he has studied the history, politics, religions and most important, the peoples of the region as a friend, but with a highly critical eye.
His work in post-invasion Iraq led him to focus particularly on the role of culture in globalization and the war on terror, which was the subject of his 2005 book Why They Don't Hate Us. For his third single-authored book, Heavy Metal Islam, he wrote one of the first in depth studies of the role of originally "Western" forms of extreme pop music, such as metal, rock and hiphop, in the emergence of youth movements, subcultures, countercultures and finally revolutionary cultures across the Arab and larger Muslim world. The book, an editor's pick at the New York Times Book Review, literally predicted the Arab Spring that erupted two years after its publication in 2008. Details of the book can be found at http://heavymetalislam.net, including the 2009 compilation album of the best music from the region he produced for EMI, Flowers in the Desert. In 2013 LeVine released, with Emmy-winning and Oscar-niminated film maker Jed Rothstein, the award-winning documentary Before the Spring, After the Fall, which aired nationally on PBS.
LeVine's other books, both single-authored, edited and co-edited, all attempt to bring together the insights of historical, cultural and political-economic analysis as well as his experiences as a practicing artist and critical theorist, focusing on the deep histories of present day problems and conflicts from a global perspective and places the Muslim world firmly within the larger interactions between Europe, Africa and Asia during the last half millennium. With books such as Struggle and Survival in Palestine/Israel and One Land, Two States: Israel and Palestine as Parallel States, he continues to bring the voices of often silenced or marginalized people in the midst of struggling for a better future to the public's view.
LeVine is presently working on several book projects about the Arab uprisings and the Israeli occupation, as well as continuing his work as a musician with a project bringing together leading musicians, singers and rappers from around the Arab world and sub-Saharan Africa to recreate anew the classic music of Fela Kuti. This continues the cross-cultural collaborations he first became known for with his arranging and performance on the Grammy-winning 2005 album Street Signs by Latin rock pioneers Ozomatli.
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An eighteen-year-old Moroccan who loves Black Sabbath. A twenty-two-year-old rapper from the Gaza Strip. A young Lebanese singer who quotes Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song.” Heavy metal, punk, hip-hop, and reggae are each the music of protest, and are considered immoral by many in the Muslim world. As the young people and subcultures featured in Mark LeVine’s Heavy Metal Islam so presciently predicted, this music turned out to be the soundtrack of countercultures, uprisings, and even revolutions from Morocco to Pakistan.
In Heavy Metal Islam, originally published in 2008, Mark LeVine explores the influence of Western music on the Middle East and North Africa through interviews with musicians and fans, introducing us to young people struggling to reconcile their religion with a passion for music and a thirst for change. The result is a revealing tour de force of contemporary cultures across the Muslim majority world through the region’s evolving music scenes that only a musician, scholar, and activist with LeVine’s unique breadth of experience could narrate. A New York Times Editor’s Pick when it was first published, Heavy Metal Islam is a surprising, wildly entertaining foray into a historically authoritarian region where music reveals itself to be a true democratizing force—and a groundbreaking work of scholarship that pioneered new forms of research in the region.
We'll Play till We Die dives into the revolutionary music cultures of the Middle East and larger Muslim world before, during, and beyond the waves of resistance that shook the region from Morocco to Pakistan. This sequel to Mark LeVine's celebrated Heavy Metal Islam shows how some of the world's most extreme music not only helped inspire and define region-wide protests, but also exemplifies the beauty and diversity of youth cultures throughout the Muslim world.
Two years after Heavy Metal Islam was published in 2008, uprisings and revolutions spread like wildfire. The young people organizing and protesting on the streets—in dozens of cities from Casablanca to Karachi—included the very musicians and fans LeVine spotlighted in that book. We'll Play till We Die revisits the groundbreaking stories he originally explored, sharing what has happened to these musicians, their music, their politics, and their societies since then. The book covers a stunning array of developments, not just in metal and hip hop scenes, but with emo in Baghdad, mahraganat in Egypt, techno in Beirut, and more. LeVine also reveals how artists have used global platforms like YouTube and SoundCloud to achieve unprecedented circulation of their music outside corporate or government control. The first collective ethnography and biography of the post-2010 generation, We'll Play till We Die explains and amplifies the radical possibilities of music as a revolutionary force for change.
Impossible Peace provides one of the first comprehensive analyses of that history. Mark LeVine argues that Oslo was never going to bring peace or justice to Palestinians or Israelis. He claims that the accords collapsed not because of a failure to live up to the agreements; but precisely because of the terms of and ideologies underlying the agreements. Today more than ever before, it's crucial to understand why these failures happened and how they will impact on future negotiations towards the 'final status agreement'. This fresh and honest account of the peace process in the Middle East shows how by learning from history it may be possible to avoid the errors that have long doomed peace in the region.