One lamentation about Arab culture that is heard quite commonly is that it has sunk into a century long sleep. Also Arab intellectuals widely bemoan an atmosphere of stagnation or a reactionist attitude in a world otherwise characterised by accelerated progress. Edward Said’s concept of ‘Orientalism’ states that the reasons for this perception are to be found in a dominant, Western discourse claiming an irreconcilable dichotomy between Orient and Occident. Samir Kassir, by contrast, chose to refer to what he calls the ‘Arab misfortune’ deriving from a narrow construction of history as the main reason for the reigning feeling of inferiority in the Arab World.

Contrary to these rather static views dominating the discourse on history, artists in the Arab World seem to move in a cultural interspace through which they escape both the alleged orientalist verdict and the self-imposed idea of a general misfortune. This situation might be disclosing a different aspect of the ‘long sleep’, namely that of preserving a vital and dynamic search for identity in view of paralysing hopelessness. Thus, Arab artists take from contemporary Western art orientalistic attributions and thereby undermine them in order to enhance their creative power in complex cultural translations. In the same vein, the discourse on history is re-evaluated and subsequently infused into new aesthetic concepts that challenge and compete with common views on history. The question that remains is whether the impact of the arts will suffice to counter concepts of cultural defeat or whether their realm is mainly to be perceived as a place of introverted refuge.

The conference will focus on the relationship between traditional concepts of history and artistic endeavours as  visions counteracting these concepts through an innovation of new forms or a re-definition of aesthetical norms. We will hear from researchers from different backgrounds as well as from artists discussing their works.

In English

Musin al-Musawi
Friederike Pannewick
Lamia Loreige
Kamal Salhi
Nada Shabout
et al

Organized by

SFB 626 in cooperation with the ICI Berlin

The event, like all events at the ICI Berlin, is open to the public, free of charge. The audience is presumed to consent to a possible recording on the part of the ICI Berlin. If you would like to attend the event yet might require assistance, please contact Event Management.