Six years ago, on the roof of a Brooklyn building, former professor and activist Mikey Muhanna founded a space reserved for those who are passionate and curious about Arab history. Under the name Afikra, this podcast is now one of the digital homes of conferences, debates, and interviews on Arab culture.
Afikra is an Arabic expression that translates as re-contemplation, reconsideration, or simply, “second thoughts”. It then accurately translates the vision of an organization bearing the same name and passion about Arab history.
Since its creation, this digital space has been laying bare Arab history so that its listeners can appreciate, question and tell it again. This idea has thus become an ever-expanding edifice. The purpose of this podcast is affirmed. While it attempts to resist superficial learning, it was not created in response to the Middle East education crisis, but responds to the desire to be “a neutral network”, as Mikey states, “embracing curiosity and intellectual agnosticism”.
“A commitment to contribute to the conversation” is the only criterion for membership, Mikey said. The decision is entirely up to the speakers, driven by passion and curiosity about ancient and contemporary Arab history.
For the application to work, therefore, all it takes is for one person to invite ten others and encourage them to be curious so that they bring in more people. “This is how we grew up” says the founder. The speakers then travel the corridors of Arab literature, cinema, music, fashion and philosophy. Even major investment projects such as the controversial Suez Canal are discussed.
To make itself known, the podcast used the new means of communication that are the social networks. As a result, the platform has been able to see the growth of its community evolve considerably, all thanks to the influx of digital content improving its accessibility. For example, Afikra’s Instagram, created a year ago, gave rise to the launch of its eponymous short segment “story time”.
“There are so many people who only know us through story time” Mikey said. The format is a short 10-minute burst of information.
Content production is key to Afikra’s commitment to sharing knowledge, from one person to another, and from one group to another.
Slowly but surely, Afikra is transforming itself into a digital village with its own open access library. Each new member is a book added to this library.
If you’re passionate about oriental culture, come and join this community!