FROM PLO TO NGO: ARTS, LETTERS
AND THE DISSONANCE OF DISSENT AFTER THE COLD WAR
Since the start of the Arab revolutionary process and the violence that has accompanied it, the arts have come to play an ever more crucial role as mobilizer, witness and archivist of historical events. As a result the domain has enjoyed an exponential growth in the technical and financial support it receives from US and EU funding bodies. This growth has provoked intense debates within policy circles and a plethora of academic literature on what the role of visual and cultural practices are and should be in violent warfare, political change and the study of politics and culture in the region. This talk will historicize and contextualize this phenomenon as its focus predates 2011 and grapples with it from its first appearance in the 1990s and until its consolidation in the aftermath of 9/11. Specifically the talk examines the ways in which transnational circuits of visual cultural production are related to how society makes, sees and experiences the political in art and its relevance to the wider publics in Jordan, Lebanon and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The talk addresses prevalent debates about the nature of the political in art as well as the role of art and the intellectual in political change. It shows that both are part and parcel of shifting structural dynamics in local and international politics that directly impact the production of culture and how different generations practice them, perceive them and process them. Hence the talk is not is not so much about “art”, as much as it is about the “artworld” from a local perspective, and how culture in it is produced in a global world.
Hanan Toukan is Visiting Assistant Professor of Middle East Studies and Visual Arts at Brown University. Before joining Brown, Professor Toukan taught at the Freie Universität Berlin as well as at SOAS, University of London. She has also been a guest lecturer at Goldsmiths University of London in art history and visual cultures as well as Campus in Camps in Palestine. Professor Toukan was an EUME Postdoctoral Fellow in Berlin in 2012–2013, a Freie Universität Postdoctoral Fellow between 2014 and 2016 and a Kenyon Institute Visiting Scholar in East Jerusalem in 2012. Toukan is currently working on her manuscript based on her award winning Ph.D. titled “A Global Political: Art, Dissent and Diplomacy in the Arab World” under contract with Stanford University Press. Her articles have appeared in Arab Studies Journal, Cultural Politics, Journal for Palestine Studies, Review of Middle East Studies, Jerusalem Quarterly, SCTIW Review, Jadaliyya and Ibraaz amongst others. She has also contributed chapters to Narrating Conflict in the Middle East: Discourse, Image and Communication Practices in Lebanon and Palestine (2013, edited by Dina Matar and Zahera Harb), to Commitment and Beyond: Locating the Political in Arabic Literature since the 1940s (2015, edited by Frederike Pannewick and Georges Khalil) and Histories of Arab Documentary (edited by Viola Shafik).