[R6069] Art as Method and Lens for Middle East Studies

Created by Kirsten Scheid
Wednesday, 10/07/20 11:00 am


Art is relevant to ongoing life in the Middle East and, consequently, key to studying it. For example, Winegar's ethnographic study of "young artists" in Egypt (2006) revealed the workings of "graduated sovereignty." Documenting Palestinian art installation projects using "anticipatory representation," De Cesari (2011) found that art may call into being, by representing beforehand and providing practical experience of, institutions that do not yet (fully) exist. Shannon (2003) listened to tarab music in Syria to comprehend how art manipulates experiences of, and relations to, time which affect audiences' commitment to the chronologies and teleologies of community. Such cases show that studying art can help you understand local society, politics, and processes because unpacking how art is made, identifying concepts people think through art, or tracking how people's subjectivities form in art processes, gives access to aspects of their lives that do not fit conventional maps, dictionaries, or teleologies. Categorical junctures found in art can alert us to ones that are imaginable, tangible, and motivating for the people we study, despite their "messiness." Ultimately, these cases undermine the idea that politics, economics, or social identity constitute external and self-evident contexts in which art happens. The round table proposes that starting with art is a method and analytical lens to advance and enrich studies of the Middle East.




Association for Middle East Anthropology (AMEA)






Elizabeth Derderian

(College of Wooster)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;