By OMAR AL-GHAZZI (IMNN-Member)
Exploring the post-March 2011 Syrian online sphere, this article focuses on nostalgic videos and memes that take inspiration from Arabic-dubbed Japanese anime series, which were broadcast on national Arab TVs in the 1980s. As part of a dissident social media culture, amateur videos that redubbed and edited childhood cartoons have appeared on YouTube since 2011— tackling themes of revolution, war, and exile. These videos defied and mocked the Syrian Al-Assad regime, as well as the Islamic State group. A result of empowering media practices, the videos projected political meaning on childhood cartoons, which have been associated with a generational identity shared by now-adult Syrians. Highlighting an understudied aspect of media globalization— the influence of Japanese anime on Arab popular culture— the article examines a diverse body of social media clips and memes that recycle Japanese anime. I analyze their Syrian re-appropriation by offering a typology of nostalgic online practices within contexts of war and uprising. These can be summed up in three categories of nostalgic mediation: nostalgic defiance, as expressed in calls for political action; nostalgic mockery, as reflected in subversive nostalgic humor targeting authority; and nostalgic anguish, in reaction to the trauma of war and exile, such as in relation to the Syrian refugee crisis.