[-empyre-] Welcome to February 2020 discussion: Why Are We Still Talking about the Middle East?

Ana Valdés agora158 at gmail.com
Sun Feb 2 18:28:25 AEDT 2020

Dear Dale and -empire. I am very happy and grateful for the choice of
topic. Middle East is a symbolic loaded place and a no place, using Marc
Auges definition.
I look forward to this month discussion.
As an intellectual and activist deep envolver with the struggles of the
Palestinian I wish this discussion could enlighten us...
For many of you my work within Palestine is known not for others. I link
here to my and my colleague the Swedish  visual artist Cecilia Parsberg
work, www.ceciliaparsberg.se/jenin and Cecilia’s films on Vimeo To Rachel
and I see the House.
We were in Gaza at the same time when Rachel Corrie was killed and Cecilia
did a very moving film about her.

El El dom, 2 de feb. de 2020 a la(s) 04:17, Dale Hudson <dmh2018 at nyu.edu>

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Hi all.
> Thanks, Renate for the generous introduction! Despite the different time
> zones, Ithaca seems nearby due to some many connections with amazing
> scholars and artists there.
> Thanks, also to the Joumana al Jabri, Sama Alshaibi, Beth Derderian, Kay
> Dickinson, Sean Foley, Nat Muller, Afrah Shafiq, Surabhi Shamra, and Parisa
> Vaziri for joining me in leading this discussion. I’ve pasted their bios
> below.
> ,
> I’m hoping that this month’s theme will generate an insightful discussion,
> particularly in thew wake of the “peace” plan recently proposed by the
> United States.
> Looking forward to hearing your perspectives!
> Dale
> Dale Hudson | دايل هدسون
> New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD)
> Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival (FLEFF)
> MONTH’S THEME: Why Are We Still Talking about the Middle East?
> This month’s theme confronts the legacies of European colonialism and U.S.
> imperialism in the divisive segregation of cultures into geopolitical
> regions. We invite artists, curators, and scholars to consider whether the
> term remains useful, either as a term of convenience or as a term of
> contention.
> The invention of a so-called Middle East mobilizes orientalist tropes that
> essentialize diverse cultures and histories while simultaneously
> categorizing them as too diverse to function as a unified civilization. The
> terms and its antecedents and counterparts (Orient, Libya, Near East)
> facilitate political, economic, and cultural domination and inhibit social
> and psychological decolonization after independence.
> Britain partitioned India in 1947 and Palestine in 1948. The United States
> subsequently mobilized the term Middle East to undermine Arab nationalism
> and legitimize military interventions. Destructive myths of “Jews versus
> Arabs” and “Sunnis versus Shias” continue to circulate. From the War on
> Terror into the Arab Spring, U.S. assumptions about a Middle East (which
> includes Muslim South Asia) have prioritized unruly violence.
> The term Middle East has been uncritically adopted within the region,
> often by neocolonial and neoliberal power holders. It has been tolerated by
> critical area studies at universities around the world. It has been
> diffused as an ME in less obviously problematic terms such as MENA (ME +
> North Africa), MENASA (ME + NA + South Asia), and MENASASEA (ME + NA + SA +
> Southeast Asia). Still, it might be timely to think in other terms and
> rethink the consequences of continuing to imagine a Middle East exists.
> Are we complicit with violence when we use terms like the Middle East to
> designate cultures across North Africa, West Asia, and South Asia that have
> diverse and distinct cultures and histories yet also share common
> experiences and perspectives? They were connected historically by
> pilgrimages, caravan routes, and maritime trade, but they are
> linguistically and culturally diverse. Can arts practice, curation, and
> scholarship help to recognize difference without amplifying division?
> Are academic disciplines like art history, film and media studies, digital
> and visual arts complicit in extending the politically exclusionary and
> intellectually limiting frameworks of nations and regions that often
> marginalize and minoritize different perspectives? Can we work towards more
> equitable and just ways of framing our interventions?
> Joumana al Jabri’s work revolves around creative processes and outputs to
> address pressing social issues. She is a co-founder along with Ramzi Jaber
> and Ahmad Ghunaim of Visualizing Impact, winner of Prix Ars Electronica
> 2013, partnered with Polypod. Joumana co-curated TEDxRamallah 2011 with
> Ramzi, organized between Ramallah-Bethlehem, Beirut and Amman and
> livestreamed to over twenty cities globally. She is a co-founder along with
> Reem Charif and Mohamad Hafeda of Febrik a collaborative platform for
> participatory art and design research projects concerned with social
> practices in public spaces, with particular focus on Palestinian refugee
> camps.
> Sama Alshaibi’s practice examines the mechanisms displacement and
> fragmentation in the aftermath of war and exile. Her photographs, videos
> and immersive installations features the body, often her own, as either a
> gendered site or a geographic device resisting oppressive political and
> social conditions. Alshaibi’s monograph Sama Alshaibi: Sand Rushes In (New
> York: Aperture, 2015) presents her Silsila series which probes the human
> dimensions of migration borders and environmental demise. Her work has been
> featured in several prominent biennials and exhibited in over 20 national
> and international solo exhibitions. Born in Basra to an Iraqi father and
> Palestinian mother, Alshaibi is based in the United States where she is
> Professor of Photography, Video and Imaging at the University of Arizona,
> Tucson.
> Beth Derderian is a Postdoctoral Associate at the Council on Middle East
> Studies at Yale University. She has a PhD in anthropology from Northwestern
> University, and a Master’s in Museum and Near Eastern Studies from NYU. Her
> research focuses on the politics of art and cultural production in the
> Gulf. She was awarded a Fulbright IIE and a doctoral research grant from
> the Al Qasimi Foundation to conduct her field research. She also makes
> podcasts for AnthroPod, and co-edits the Middle East Section News on
> Anthropology News.
> Kay Dickinson is Professor of Film Studies at Concordia University,
> Montreal.  She is the author of Off Key: When Film and Music Won’t Work
> Together (Oxford University Press, 2008), Arab Cinema Travels:
> Transnational Syria, Palestine, Dubai and Beyond (bfi, 2016) and Arab Film
> and Video Manifestos: Forty-Five Years of the Moving Image Amid Revolution
> (Palgrave, 2018).
> Sean Foley is a Professor of History at Middle Tennessee State University,
> who has published extensively on Middle East and Islamic history. He is the
> author of Changing Saudi Arabia: Art, Culture, and Society in the Kingdom
> (2019) and The Arab Gulf States: Beyond Oil and Islam (2010)—both of which
> were published by Lynne Rienner Publishers. He has also done extensive
> research in Saudi Arabia and has held Fulbright grants in Syria, Turkey,
> and Malaysia. For more on his work, see his website, www.seanfoley.org.
> Follow him on twitter @foleyse.
> Nat Muller is an independent curator and writer based between Amsterdam
> and Birmingham. Her main interests are: image politics and contemporary art
> from the Middle East. Recent exhibitions include Spectral Imprints for the
> Abraaj Group Art Prize in Dubai (2012); Adel Abidin’s solo exhibition I
> love to love… at Forum Box in Helsinki (2013); This is the Time. This is
> the Record of the Time at Stedelijk Museum/American University of Beirut
> Gallery (2014/15); the A.M. Qattan 2016 Young Artist of the Year Award at
> Qalandiya International in Ramallah and The Mosaic Rooms in London; Neither
> on the Ground nor in the Sky at ifa Gallery Berlin (2019). In 2015 she was
> Associate Curator for the Delfina Foundation’s Politics of Food Program
> (London). She has curated film programs for Rotterdam’s International Film
> Festival, Norwegian Short Film Festival, International Short Film Festival
> Oberhausen, and Video D.U.M.B.O New York. Her writing has been widely
> published and she edited Sadik Kwaish Alfraji’s monograph (Schilt
> Publishing, 2015), Nancy Atakan’s monograph Passing On (Kehrer Verlag,
> 2016), Walid Siti’s monograph (Kehrer Verlag, forthcoming 2020). Her
> AHRC-funded PhD project at Birmingham City University researches science
> fiction in contemporary visual practices from the Middle East. She curated
> the Danish Pavilion with Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour for the 58th
> Venice Biennale in 2019. www.natmuller.com
> Afrah Shafiq is a multi/new media artist based between Goa and Bangalore.
> Her art practice moves across various platforms and mediums, seeking a way
> to retain the tactile within the digital and the poetry within technology.
> Her work has been shown at the Lahore Biennial 2020, testsite Austin, Kochi
> Muziris Biennale 2018/19, The Guild Art Gallery in Alibaug, Be.Fantastic in
> Bengaluru, What About Art in Mumbai, Digital Graffiti Festival in Florida,
> The Fusebox Festival in Texas and the Computer Space festival in Bulgaria.
> She has been invited on research and residency programs with Fluent
> Collaborative Austin, the Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art, and the
> Institute of Advance Studies in Nantes, France. When she is not glued to
> her computer she also makes glass mosaic.
> Surabhi Shamra has been an independent filmmaker making feature-length
> documentaries and short films since 2000. Her documentaries, fiction, and
> video installations engage with cities in transition using the lens of
> labor, music, and migration. Her films have been screened and awarded at
> international film festivals and include: Returning to the First Beat
> (2017); Bidesia in Bambai (2013); Jahaji Music: India in the Caribbean
> (2007); Above the Din of Sewing Machines (2004); Aamakaar, The Turtle
> People (2002); and Jari Mari: Of Cloth and Other Stories (2001). She is an
> assistant professor at New York University Abu Dhabi.
> Parisa Vaziri received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from U.C.
> Irvine in 2018. Her work engages legacies of Indian Ocean world slavery in
> the long durée through prisms of visual media. Her research overlaps
> interests in critical theory, black studies, Middle Eastern cultural
> production, postcolonial critiques of history, film theory, new media,
> philosophy, anthropology, and histories of displinary formation more
> generally. Her current project recovers articulations of blackness in
> Iranian visual culture, primarily through the media of experimental
> documentary and art cinema. She proposes film as a site of transmission
> that disrupts traditional periodization schemes and that elucidates
> problems of temporality and geography in orthdox narratives about the
> concept of race. Two of her forthcoming publications position the history
> of experimental ethnographic documentary as supplement and stimulant to the
> Iranian New Wave film movement, while exploring how filmic blackness
> allegorizes modernity's spatial and temporal disjunctions.
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