[P4832] The Cultural Politics of Violence

Created by Michael Farquhar
Sunday, 11/19/17 3:30pm


This panel examines the ways in which cultural representations of violence have contributed to the construction, maintenance and remaking of power relations in the modern Middle East. How, from the colonial period until the present day, has the aestheticization of violence exercised by state and non-state actors contributed to upholding and normalizing state power? How have cultural representations of violence contributed to forging new forms of political subjectivity, identity and community? And how have people found spaces for contesting existing power relations by advancing their own representations of violence, against dominant narratives?

The panel takes seriously the cultural politics of violence in the Middle East without giving ground to essentialist accounts of a cultural propensity towards violence, or cliched depictions of daily life in the region as uniquely defined by violence. It is partly with a view to breaking out of such stereotypes that the panel participants aim to think comparatively, taking their cue in part from Michael Taussig’s work on “cultures of terror” in the rather different context of colonial Latin America. Specifically, they respond to Taussig’s invitation to consider the ways in which representations of violence - the forms of storytelling, rumors, recollection and gossip which tend to cohere in a “dense web of magical realism” around episodes of violence - may exercise a potent political force in their own right, distinct from that of the physical acts they purport to represent. The panel participants also affirm Taussig’s emphasis on the need for analysis of the political implications of such narratives to engage seriously with the specificities of the historical, political and geographical contexts in which they are embedded.

In order to approach these themes in the Middle Eastern context, each paper focuses on the ways in which particular forms of violence have been narrated and represented in specific settings, ranging from Ottoman Istanbul, to post-independence Egypt, to present-day Israel. They consider the ways in which violence is represented in diverse cultural formats, including translated crime fiction, prisoners’ testimonies, crowd control simulation technologies, and police-authored novels and memoirs. By adopting this focus on cultural production and bringing together such diverse forms, it becomes possible to think in new ways about how violence has had divergent political implications in different times and places in the modern Middle East.


Pol Science



R. Shareah Taleghani

(Queens College The City University of New York)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair;

James McDougall

(Trinity College, Oxford)
Panel Participating Role(s): Discussant;

Michael Farquhar

(King's College London)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Shimrit Lee

(New York University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Hannah Scott Deuchar

(New York University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Hannah Elsisi

(University of Oxford)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;