House of Twitter: Jinn, Leaks, Akhbar
Abstract: Examining the phenomenon of the Saudi tweep Mujtahidd who became famous for allegedly revealing the inner workings of power in the Kingdom and drawing almost two million followers on Twitter, this talk analyzes the intersection of leaking political news and scandals with literary genres such as celebrity gossip and classical akhbar. Dr El-Ariss examines how Mujtahidd produces himself as Jinn-like, casting his knowledge as otherworldly revelations meant to inform, titillate, and create bewilderment and awe. He reads his tweeting as a literary performance involving virtuosity and as a mystical séance that recast the nature of news production and consumption in the Arab digital age. El-Ariss explores how the leaker and technology become interconnected, sharing, embodying, and reproducing each other’s functions and texts that are simultaneously informational, mystical, and literary.
Dr Tarek El-Ariss (PhD, Cornell 2004) is Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at Dartmouth College and Associate Editor of Journal of Arabic Literature. He is the author of Trials of Arab Modernity: Literary Affects and the New Political (Fordham UP, 2013) and editor of The Arab Renaissance: A Bilingual Anthology of the Nahda (Modern Language Association, 2017). His forthcoming book, The Leaking Subject: Arab Culture in the Digital Age, examines the way that cyber modes of confrontation, circulation, and exhibitionism shape contemporary cultural practices and critiques of power.