Instant Coffee Podcast

A Quick Fix of Everything Middle East

This podcast series, brought to you by the LSE Middle East Centre, features 20-minute conversations with activists, artists, journalists and more from the region.

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Season 3: Technology

From fintech to drones, Abbasid-era paper production to the Anglo-Iranian oil company, this season explores artists, academics and activists applying, adapting and re-imagining technology in their fields.


Episode 1: Digital Rights and Big Tech in MENA

What kinds of obstacles are people in MENA facing with regards to access to technological opportunity and digital rights abuses? How are they tied to global challenges? Dr Nakeema Stefflbauer, tech executive, investor and digital rights advocate shares her thinking.

This episode also features comment from Kassem Mnejja and Marwa Fatafta of Access Now, a digital rights advocacy group, who discuss these issues in relation to Tunisia, Sudan and Palestine.


Episode 2: Knowledge Production Across Empires

The Abbasid and British Empires are the nexus through which our two guests, Ahmed Ragab and Katayoun Shafiee explore technology, knowledge production and power. This episode charts medieval paper production and Abbasid-era hospitals, to the “discovery” of oil by foreign entrepreneurs in southern Iran, exploring the different ways technological knowledge production developed across empire.

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Episode 3: Re-Appropriating Technologies with and for Refugees and Migrants

Smartphones, food-only debit cards, biometric data checks at border crossings, these are some of the ways refugees and migrants interact with technology in their daily lives both in the region and the diaspora.

This episode unpacks the benefits, ambivalences and concerns surrounding these technologies. Our guests, Dr Reem Talhouk and Dr Yener Bayramoğlu discuss refugee-centered design technologies for humanitarian aid as well as smartphone usage amongst refugees and migrants and how it has given them control over their own lives and narratives as they cross borders.


Episode 4: Fintech, Crypto and Sanctions in Iraq and Iran

Iraq’s engagement with fintech is new but rapidly developing, amidst a contemporary economic history that has struggled with foreign intervention and internal corruption, while Iranians have been engaging with a form of fintech - alternative digital currencies - for some time, to evade and work around sanctions and a crippled economy.

In this episode we speak to Ali Al-Hilli and Shayan Eskandari, who are working at the intersection of technology and finance, to improve the livelihoods and prosperity of their home countries. 


Episode 5: Archiving and Mapping Technologies in Palestine and Syria

Majd Al-Shihabi of 'Palestine Open Maps' and Sana Yazigi of the 'Creative Memory of the Syrian Revolution' talk to us about how they have centered their archiving processes around maps, and what digital archiving can do for Palestinian and Syrian community-building.

This episode also features comment from Dr Sara Salem and Dr Mai Taha of LSE, who explore the importance of creative archiving through their project 'Archive Stories'.


Episode 6: Art Meaning and Art Making with Nadim Choufi

How can art complicate claims of progress, innovation and the use of rapidly developing emerging technologies in MENA? In this episode, Cima Chehab speaks to visual artist Nadim Choufi about how he incorporates technology into his artwork both as subject matter and as medium.

Nadim is a visual artist living in Beirut. He primarily focuses on the material histories and futures of innovation and desire, their social and political driving forces, and the visual and literary practices that surround them. He is a 2024 resident at the Jan van Eyck Academy.


Episode 7: Living in the Future with Rahel Aima

Writer and art critic, Rahel Aima talks to us about living in the Gulf, a region rapidly developing itself as the place to be for smart cities and high-tech living.

Rahel explores a concept she has been thinking about for some time, the Khaleeji Ideology, which meets at the intersection of technology, economy, the environment and nation building, as a way of understanding developments in the contemporary Gulf.

This episode also features comment from Professor Michael Mason, Director of the LSE Middle East Centre, who explores the rise of “progressive” urban development projects in the Gulf, and whether technology can be the solution to pressing environmental challenges of our time.


Episode 8: Data for Development with Nagla Rizk

What does the era of 'big data' mean for development technologies in MENA? How can data be used for good, to ensure projects working with vulnerable communities such as informal workers and women are seen and supported? What kind of repercussions does poor data collection have on emerging technologies? How can data-driven research and technology improve prospects for the next generation in the region seeking work, and what does it mean for the future of labour in the region?

These are some of the questions we posed to Nagla Rizk, Professor of Economics at the American University in Cairo. 


Episode 9: War Tech and Nationalism in Turkey and Israel

This episode explores the link between technology, warfare and nationalism. 

Digdem Solaytin Colella (University of Aberdeen) speaks to the regime-boosting effects of drone production in Turkey, whilst Sophia Goodfriend (Duke University) provides a more granular analysis of how military technology has transformed a new generation of Israeli soldiers’ views of Palestinians and Israeli occupation.


Episode 10: The Power of Radio

In this last episode of the season, we speak to audio curator Hazem Jamjoum, and Elias Anastas and Saeed Abu Jaber, two of the co-founders of the Palestinian radio station Radio Al Hara.

We find out more about the history of the radio in the region and also it's present – specifically looking at how this new technology was used by imperialists, technocrats, intellectuals and liberation groups to broadcast and connect groups. Through Radio Al Hara's activity, we learn how radio works in similar ways to this day.

Season 2: Food

On this season, we are going beyond the plate to understand how the complexities of food, farming, and cuisine in the region, are shaping peoples’ writing, thinking, cooking, and organising. 

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Episode 1: Beetroot hummus and culinary appropriation with Fadi Kattan

Sara Masry speaks with Fadi Kattan about everything from Palestinian cuisine in Chile and Haiti to why you shouldn't make chocolate and beetroot hummus. Fadi is a Franco-Palestinian chef from Bethlehem.

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Episode 2: Yemen's Coffee Revolution with Faris Sheibani

Professor Madawi Al-Rasheed speaks with Faris Sheibani about the history and culture of coffee in Yemen. Faris is a British-Yemeni social entrepreneur and founder of Qima Coffee, a Yemeni social enterprise that uses coffee as a vehicle for livelihood generation in Yemen.

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Episode 3: Iraqi Cuisine from Mesopotamia to Mosul with Nawal Nasrallah

Taif Alkhudary speaks with Nawal Nasrallah about Iraqi cuisine from Mesopotamia to modern day. Nawal is an award-winning food historian of the Arab world, and translator of major medieval Arabic cookbooks hailing from Baghdad, Egypt, and Al-Andalus.


Episode 4: Sowing Solidarity with Vivien Sansour

Nadine Almanasfi speaks with Vivien Sansour about seed conservation and the protection of agro-biodiversity as a cultural and political act. Vivien is founder of the Palestine Heirloom Seed Library, an interactive arts and agriculture project attempting to record ancient seeds and their stories and put them back into people’s hands.

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Episode 5: Food as a human right with Michael Fakhri

Michael Mason speaks with Michael Fakhri about why food is a human right, and how he uses the case of Lebanon, his home country, as a sounding board for his right to food questions as UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.


Episode 6: Behind 'The Iranian Vegan' with Mana Shamshiri 

We speak with Mana Shamshiri about the origins of veganism, it's rise amongst youth in Iran, as well as cooking in the diaspora, with analysis from Ghoncheh Tazmini and Alireza Sedighi. Mana is creator of the website and Instagram platform 'The Iranian Vegan'.


Episode 7: Migrant Cuisine in the Expat City with Vidya Balachander

Is there such a thing as a Dubai cuisine? What role do the migrants and expats of the emirate play in curating this food culture? We see if Vidya Balachander can help us find some answers, with  analysis from Steffen Hertog. Vidya is a food writer, editor and journalist currently based in Dubai.

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Episode 8: The Sudanese Kitchen(s) with Omer Eltigani

Camel milk, mushrooms, ta’miyah, agashe, aseeda, tarkeen, these are just some of the foods and dishes that make up Sudan’s intricate network of cuisines. We spoke with Omer Eltigani, cook, archivist and founder of ‘The Sudanese Kitchen’ to talk more about the country’s vast foods, their historical influences and how he is trying to bring these recipes to the younger generation.

This episode also features comments on gender and food from Jennifer Shutek, PhD candidate and instructor, as well as a discussion on food and identity with filmmaker Hajooj Kuka.


Episode 9: An A-Z of Food Names with Salma Serry

Have you ever thought about the names behind the dishes you’re eating? Salma Serry, an Egyptian born filmmaker, interdisciplinary foodways researcher and founder of Sufra Kitchen, gave us the lowdown on how many of the foods we know and love came to be named. We discuss folk tales, personal and national histories, and even get into the grammar of it all!

This episode also features contributions from Mahmoud Arif, Iran Seyed Raeisy, Rusaila Bazlamit, Rawand Issa, Rajae Oujlakh and Sergen Bahceci. 

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Episode 10: A Brief History of Wine with Farrah Berrou

From Tlemcen through to Bethlehem and the Bekaa Valley, we chart the history of wine production in the Middle East and North Africa. Farrah Berrou talks us through her journey of wine writing for a Western audience and what the future holds for Lebanese wine. We also explore the relationship between French colonialism and wine production, and ideas of nationhood, religion, and politics in Algeria and Palestine.

Farrah is founder of B for Bacchus, a media platform & podcast featuring wine stories from the Fertile Crescent. 

This episode also features commentary from Jamal Rayyis, a Palestinian-American wine writer, as well as Arthur Asseraf, historian of modern North Africa, France and the Mediterranean. 


Season 1

Our first season was a general overview of some of the inspiring work that activists, artists and journalists are doing in and around the region.

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Episode 1: Reporting the Lebanese Thawra with Megaphone's Jean Kassir

Omar al-Ghazzi talks to Jean Kassir about covering the Lebanese revolution. Jean is co-founder of Megaphone news, an independent media platform covering Lebanon and the region.

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Episode 2: Arts under occupation with Ahmed Masoud

Sinéad Murphy talks to Ahmed Masoud about Obliterated, the play that never happened. Ahmed is a Palestinian & British writer from Gaza, living in London. He is author of the mystery novel Vanished & The Shroud Maker.

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Episode 3: Challenges of researching in Yemen with Hafez Al-Bukari

Rasha Obaid Ba Sabih talks to Hafez Al-Bukari of the Yemen Polling Centre about the challenges of researching in Yemen. The Yemen Polling Centre is an independent research centre which aims to impact local and international policymaking with the ultimate goal of improving the living conditions of the Yemeni people.

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Episode 4: The Future of the Israeli Left with Alon-Lee Green

Jack McGinn talks to Alon-Lee Green about the future of the Israeli Left. Alon-Lee is National Director of Standing Together, a Jewish-Arab grassroots movement organising in Israel.

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Episode 5: Technology and activism in Palestine with Salem Barahmeh

Muna Dajani talks to Salem Barahmeh about technology and activism in Palestine. Salem is Executive Director of the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy (PIPD) and an advocate for Palestinian freedom and rights.

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Episode 6: Feminism in Kurdistan with Houzan Mahmoud

Isabel Käser talks to Houzan Mahmoud about the state of feminism in Kurdistan and Culture Project, a platform for writers, feminists, artists and activists from Kurdistan and the Kurdish diaspora to freely express their ideas.

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Episode 7: Locating Afghanistan in the 'Middle East' with Moshtari Hilal

Marral Shamshiri-Fard talks to Moshtari Hilal about locating Afghanistan in the 'Middle East', as well as her own artistic practice. Moshtari is a visual artist and researcher working from Hamburg and Berlin.

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Episode 8: Resistance politics during a global pandemic with Ghiwa Sayegh

Sara Salem talks to Ghiwa Sayegh about resistance politics during a global pandemic. Ghiwa is a feminist writer and researcher. She is editor-in-chief of Kohl, a journal for body and gender research produced in Beirut.

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Episode 9: Independent media in Iraq in the age of disinformation with Aida Al-Kaisy

Sandra Sfeir talks to Aida Al-Kaisy about the growth of independent media in Iraq in the age of disinformation. Aida is a media development consultant and researcher who focuses on supporting ethical practices in the media industry.

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Episode 10: Between Africa and the Arab World, Sudan's arts and culture with Omnia Shawkat

Nadine Almanasfi talks to Omnia Shawkat about arts and culture in Sudan, and the country's unique position between Africa and the Arab World. Omnia is co-founder of Andariya, a bilingual digital cultural platform from and on Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda.

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Episode 11: Keeping the memories of Syria's disappeared alive with Wafa Mustafa

Ribale Sleiman-Haidar talks to Wafa Mustafa about why the world should be doing more to help in Syria. Wafa is a Syrian activist, campaigner and journalist. She is a survivor of detention and member of Families for Freedom, a group of women-led Syrian families demanding freedom for Syria's arbitrarily detained and forcibly disappeared citizens.


Special Episode: Food of the Middle East with Claudia Roden & Sami Zubaida

As part of our 10-year anniversary celebrations Robert Lowe spoke with renowned food writers Claudia Roden and Sami Zubaida reflecting on all things gastronomic in the Middle East!