EUME Berliner Seminar
Wed 23 Jun 2021 | 17:00–18:30

The Politics of Art: Dissent and Cultural Diplomacy in Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan

Hanan Toukan (Bard College Berlin / EUME Fellow 2019-22) in conversation with Diana Abbani (EUME Fellow of the Fritz Thyssen Foundation 2020/21), Amal Eqeiq (Williams College / EUME Fellow 2019-21), and Zeina Maasri (University of Brighton) on her recently published book The Politics of Art: Dissent and Cultural Diplomacy in Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan.

© Stanford University Press
© Stanford University Press

Over the last three decades, a new generation of conceptual artists has come to the fore in various cities of the Mashreq. As wars, peace treaties, sanctions, and large-scale economic developments have reshaped the region, this cohort of cultural producers has also found themselves at the center of intergenerational debates on the role of art in society. Central to these cultural debates has been steady stream of support from North American and European funding organizations—resources that only increased with the start of the Arab uprisings in the early 2010s.
The Politics of Art offers an unprecedented look into the entanglement of art and international politics in Beirut, Ramallah, and Amman to understand the aesthetics of material production within liberal economies. The book outlines the political and social functions of transnationally connected and internationally funded arts organizations and initiatives, and reveals how the production of art within global frameworks can contribute to hegemonic structures even as it is critiquing them—or how it can be counterhegemonic even when it first appears not to be. In so doing, the book proposes not only a new way of reading contemporary art practices as they situate themselves globally, but also a new way of reading the domestic politics of the region from the vantage point of art.


Hanan Toukan holds a lectureship in Politics and Middle East Studies at Bard College Berlin. Her research is concerned with the political and social roles that art and cultural institutions play in our lives.  Her teaching and writings sit at the intersection of international politics, postcolonial studies, decolonial studies, visual cultures and cultural studies. Prior to joining Bard College Berlin, Toukan was Visiting Assistant Professor of Middle East Studies at Brown University and Visiting Professor of Cultural Studies at Bamberg University. She has also taught at Freie Universität Berlin and SOAS, University of London in Media and Film Studies, as well as Politics and International Studies. She is a recipient of several research awards including most recently from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for her current research project on the visual politics of museums. Her book The Politics of Art: Dissent and Cultural Diplomacy in Palestine Lebanon and Jordan (2021) is published with Stanford University Press.

Toukan was a EUME Postdoctoral Fellow in Berlin in 2012-13 and a Kenyon Institute Visiting Scholar in East Jerusalem in 2012. Toukan’s PhD dissertation undertaken at SOAS, University of London in 2012 won the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) Malcolm H. Kerr Award for Best PhD in the Social Sciences. Toukan’s work has been published in Cultural Politics, Arab Studies Journal, International Journal of Cultural Studies, Radical Philosophy, Journal for Palestine Studies, Review of Middle East Studies, Jerusalem Quarterly, SCTIW Review, Jadaliyya and Ibraaz amongst others. She has published chapters in Leila Farsakh (ed.) Rethinking Statehood in Palestine: Self-Determination and Decolonization Beyond Statehood (University of California Press, 2021),Viola Shafik (ed), Documentary Filmmaking in the Middle East an North Africa (Cairo University Press, 2021); Friederike Pannewick and Georges Khalil (eds.), Commitment and Beyond: Locating the Political in Arabic Literature since the 1940s (Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2015); and Dina Matar and Zahera Harb (eds.), Narrating Conflict in the Middle East: Discourse, Image and Communication Practices in Lebanon and Palestine (IB Tauris, 2013).

Zeina Maasri (PhD) is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Brighton, United Kingdom. Her work explores the intersections of visual culture, design and politics, with particular attention to mid-twentieth century histories of anticolonial struggles, transnational anti-imperialist solidarities and violent conflicts in the modern Middle East. She is the author of Cosmopolitan Radicalism: The Visual Politics of Beirut’s Global Sixties (Cambridge University Press 2020); Off the Wall: Political Posters of the Lebanese Civil War (IB Tauris 2009) and curator of related travelling exhibitions and online archival resources; She is also the co-editor (with Karl Bassil, Akram Zaatari, and Walid Raad) of Mapping Sitting: On Portraiture and Photography (2002). Zeina is working on a new edited volume, Transnational Solidarity: Decentring the Sixties, forthcoming with Manchester University Press in 2022.

Amal Eqeiq is Assistant Professor of Arabic Studies and Comparative Literature at Williams College. She is currently working on her manuscript, Indigenous Affinities: Comparative Study in Mayan and Palestinian Narratives. Her interdisciplinary research includes modern Arab literature, popular culture, Palestine Studies, feminism(s), performance studies, translation, indigenous studies in the Americas, the Global South, literary history, hip-­‐hop, critical border studies, and decoloniality. She contributed to the Contemporary Levant Journal, The Routledge Companion to World Literature and World History, Journal of Palestine Studies, Transmotion: An Online Journal of Postmodern Indigenous Studies, MadaMasr and Jadaliyya, among others. She received several awards, including a writing residency at Hedgebrook, the Dean’s Medal in Humanities from the University of Washington, and PARC NEH/FPIRI research fellowship. She earned her PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Washington (2013). Eqeiq also keeps a Facebook blog called “Diaries of a Hedgehog Feminist.” During 2019/2020, Eqeiq will be an affiliated EUME Fellow associated with the Lateinamerika-­‐Institut of Freie Universität Berlin.

Diana Abbani received her doctorate in Arabic Studies from Sorbonne University with a thesis entitled “Music and Society in Beirut at the Time of the Nahda”. She holds double masters in History and Political Science from Sorbonne University and the University of Saint Denis in Paris. She is currently preparing a book that focuses on the Levant’s social history in the first half of the 20th century. In her research, she examines the implications of social, political and technological changes, as well as the emergence of the music industry and the entertainment world, on music and Levantine society. In her study, she focuses on alternative narratives, uncovering the forgotten stories of people who were affected by the sound transition and revisiting the experiences of those marginalized by official narratives. Diana was a EUME Fellow during the academic years 2018/19 and 2019/20. In the academic year 2020/21, Diana is a EUME Fellow of the Fritz Thyssen Foundation. She is associated with the Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School of Literary Studies at Freie Universität Berlin.

The conversation will take place at AL.Berlin. An on-site attendance will be available only for a limited number of pre-registered participants. The conversation will be broadcasted via Zoom. Please register in advance via eume(at) to receive the login details. Depending on approval by the speakers, the Berliner Seminar will be recorded. All audio recordings of the Berliner Seminar are available via the account of the Forum Transregionale Studien on Soundcloud.

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