SUMMARY:While there have been inquiries into Arab cinematic and theatrical productions as carriers for nationalist, pan-Arabist, or regime propagandas in scholarship, it is only lately that scholars have begun to investigate the interconnectedness of cinema and theater with political projects, in particular, leftist movements (Abu-Lughod 2005, Khatib 2008, Khouri 2010, Litvin 2011, and Stone 2007.) These studies have not only expanded our knowledge of the arts as engagements with wider political discourses, but they have also yielded insights into theorizations of ideology, violence, sectarianism, and the nation-state. Building upon these studies, this panel aims to excavate the film and theater of the region as a constituent political force, in particular, during times of crisis. Taking into account the fluidity of national boundaries within the regions' cultural productions, the panel examines works from the mid-twentieth century to today from multiple regions in the Arab Middle East, while bringing together methodologies from history, anthropology, comparative literature, and cultural studies.
Collectively, the papers in this panel investigate cinema and theater as simultaneously being informed and informing trajectories, conditions, and contexts of their time. First, they explore the role of culture in representing ideologies and circulating them in wider society. Second, the papers do not isolate these plays and films within the confines of the nation-state but look to their transnational connections in order to situate them in a broader context. In contrast to studies that treat culture and politics as discrete categories or one where the the former is subservient to the latter, our approaches argue that art and politics are interconnected and contingent upon one another. More specifically, the first paper analyzes the affective potential of Maroun Baghdadi's Lebanese Civil War era films as a counter to sectarianism. The second paper examines the changing possibilities of militant documentary in the Arab world past and present, reflecting on the transformative horizons of the social movements themselves. The third paper shifts to the force of tragedy in bringing about change as seen in the theatrical works of Sulayman al-Bassam. Finally, the fourth paper analyzes Yusuf Idris’s landmark texts al-Farafir and “Toward an Egyptian Theater,” arguing for their explicitly political importance and situating them within a transnational network of theatrical intervention. Taken together, these papers seek to document and analyze the role of culture in questioning the conjuncture that Arab nation-states found themselves in during the post-colonial and contemporary eras.
DISCIPLINES:Anthro; Hist; Media Arts