Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, Art History, Dartmouth College

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2007
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Art History, Northwestern University
Conflicting Visions: Contemporary Art in Post-Civil War Lebanon

In the years following the civil war (1975-90), Lebanon has been split between two opposing attitudes to the past: on the one hand, the desire to obliterate the memory of an ugly and unresolved conflict and, on the other, the effort to commemorate it. While the latter is increasingly expressed in efforts to revive communal solidarities and preserve the cultural heritage of the nation, the former most often takes the form of a nostalgic return to a mythical pre-war past. Working across different media (photography, video and performance) and disciplines, this dissertation considers the problem of creating a national image during a period when Lebanese identity, and the visual representations used to figure it, have been systematically weakened and destroyed. In particular, it seeks to provide a historical framework for understanding the social conditions and larger stakes of cultural production in the post-civil war era. For artists such as Lamia Joreige, Walid Raad and Akram Zaatari, the challenge is not simply to document the past or preserve what remains of it, but rather to create an alternative public sphere in which a series of unresolved issues—the legacy of the civil war, the curtailment of civil liberties, continuing sectarian divisions, changing attitudes towards the “other,” the social cost of reconstruction, border security—can be articulated. Drawing on unpublished archival sources, my project addresses two overlapping aspects of image making in Lebanon. I consider on one level the reappropriation of existing images as a means to challenge the authority of divisive and violent political discourses propagated in the media and institutional apparatuses of the state, and on another level, the production of new images that aim to provide representation for individuals and communities excluded from the dominant articulations of nationhood.