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The Art and Culture of Revolt in the Middle East

A Discussion With:

Joshua Stacher, Kent State University
Pete Moore, Case Western Reserve University – Moderators

Nada Shabout, University of North Texas, Art Education and Art History

Jessica Winegar, Northwestern University, Department of Anthropology

Ted Swedenburg, University of Arkansas, Department of Anthropology

George Trumbull IV, Dartmouth College, Department of History

Friday September 28, 2012
Wolstein Research Building Auditorium
3:00 – 5:00 p.m.
2103 Cornell Road
Cleveland, OH 44106

This forum is free and open to the public

Whether graffiti, poetry, songs, or humor, the 2011 uprisings in the Middle East were more than just political events; they were cultural and artistic productions. How did cultural and artistic products figure in the revolts? How have artists in turn been affected by the political changes underway?

Sponsored by The Northeast Ohio Consortium for Middle East Studies, the Baker-Nord Center for Humanities, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Center for Policy Studies at Case Western Reserve University. This program was also made possible by the generosity of Ms. Eloise Briskin.

About Our Guests

Joshua Stacher is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Kent State University. Prior to joining KSU, Stacher was a post- doctoral fellow at Syracuse University. Stacher’s scholarship focuses on authoritarian durability and social movements in the Middle East and North Africa.

Stacher is the author of the forthcoming Adaptable Autocrats: Regime Power in Egypt and Syria (Stanford UP, 2012). In addition, he also has published research on the Egyptian Society of Muslim Brothers as well as the unfolding Egyptian transition. He is also a frequent contributor to Middle East Report.

Pete W. Moore is an associate professor of political science at Case Western Reserve University. His research focuses on economic development and state-society relations in the Middle East and Africa; specifically, Gulf Arab States and Levant; business-state relations, privatization, and decentralization; sub-state conflict and regional security.


Nada Shabout is an Associate Professor of Art History and the Director of the Contemporary Arab and Muslim Studies Institute (CAMCSI) at the University of North Texas. She is a member of the Board of Governors of the Cultural Development Center of the Qatar Foundation, and a long-term advisor and guest curator at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha. She led Mathaf’s curatorial team of the inaugural exhibition Sajjil: A Century of Modern Art, as well as curated one of the two accompanying opening exhibitions, Interventions: A dialogue between the Modern and the Contemporary. Her teaching and writing interests are in the area of Arab and Islamic visual culture, theory and history, imperialism, Orientalism and globalization. She is the author of Modern Arab Art: Formation of Arab Aesthetics, University of Florida Press, 2007; co-editor of New Vision: Arab Art in the 21st Century, Thames & Hudson, 2009; and the founding president of the Association for Modern and Contemporary Art from the Arab World, Iran and Turkey (AMCA).

She has co-curated Modernism and Iraq at the Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University, 2009, and curated the traveling exhibition, Dafatir: Contemporary Iraqi Book Art, 2005-2009. She has published numerous articles on modern and contemporary Iraqi art and the relationship of identity and visual representations in Iraq. Since 2003, she has been working on the recovery, documentation and digitization of modern Iraqi heritage, particularly the collection previously held at the Iraqi Museum of Modern Art, available on the Modern Art Iraq Archive website, supported by a National Endowment for the Humanities-Digital Humanities Start-Up Grants. Her awards include: TAARII fellow 2006, 2007; MIT visiting Assistant Professor, spring 2008, and Fulbright Senior Scholar Program, 2008 Lecture/Research fellowship to Jordan. She is a member of the editorial committee of MERIP.

Jessica Winegar is a sociocultural anthropologist at Northwestern University whose work investigates how people articulate understandings of history and political-economic change through cultural production and consumption, in particular through competing notions of culture and culturedness. She is primarily concerned with the multiple ways that culture projects create social hierarchies and modern subjects while frequently hiding the mechanisms of these processes, thereby contributing to their durability.

Her first book Creative Reckonings: The Politics of Art and Culture in Contemporary Egypt (Stanford University Press, 2006) focused on these processes in the realm of the visual arts. It is an ethnographic study of the intense debates over cultural authenticity and artistic value that occur in a postcolonial society undergoing market liberalization. It examines how cultural elites reckon with the legacies of colonialism, socialism, and modernism in order to produce meaningful, yet competing, versions of national and elite visual culture in a context where “culture” itself is becoming increasingly globalized and commodified.

She is currently working on two new books. The first, tentatively titled Culturing Youth: Democracy, Creativity, and Development in the Middle East, charts the meteoric rise, successes, and challenges of state and NGO cultural development programs directed towards poor and working class youth in Egypt. It studies how and why such programs feature arts, etiquette, and literacy training in attempts to make poor and working class youth more “cultured” with an eye towards building a democracy based mainly on market principles, and it investigates how youth engage with such elite projects. The book is ultimately concerned with the ways that “culture” has become so important to postcolonial state governance, NGO programs, and religious projects to create moral communities, in an era of waning state legitimacy, economic restructuring, and revolution.

Ted Swedenburg received his Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from the University of Texas in 1988. His dissertation, a study of popular memories of the 1936-39 revolt in Palestine, involved interviewing elderly peasants living in Palestinian villages in the Galilee and the West Bank. He taught at the University of Washington -Seattle between 1988 and 1991, and at the American University in Cairo from 1992 to 1996. He joined the University of Arkansas in 1996.

Dr. Swedenburg’s recent research focuses on popular music. He is currently working on a book manuscript, tentatively titled Sounds from the Interzone, that deals with “border” musics of the Middle East as well as Middle Eastern-inflected musics of the West. He has done research and presented papers on Franco-Algerian rai music, “Islamic” African-American rap, and Mizrahi dance music in Israel. His most recent fieldwork has been on the popular music of Nubians in Egypt.

Dr. Swedenburg teaches courses on the Middle East, race and ethnicity, gender, and public culture. He is on the editorial committee of Middle East Report, and is actively involved with the King Fahd Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies in the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.

George R. Trumbull IV is an associate professor of History at Dartmouth College. A native New Englander, George R. Trumbull IV received his A.B. from Princeton University and his Ph.D. from Yale University, where his dissertation received the Arthur and Mary Wright Prize for Best Dissertation in a field outside of European or American history.

Professor Trumbull’s first book, An Empire of Facts: Colonial Power, Cultural Knowledge, and Islam (Algeria, 1871-1914), appeared in 2009 as part of Cambridge University Press’s “Critical Perspectives on Empire” series. Situating his research at the intersection of African and Middle Eastern Studies, he is currently working on a book entitled “Land of Thirst, Land of Fear: A History of Water in the Sahara from Empire to Oil.” A future project, probably a short book, will trace the history of recent extinctions in the Maghrib, and a longer book will offer a history of Marrakesh. Social Science Research Council, Fulbright-Hays, Whiting Foundation, and, most recently, American Council of Learned Societies fellowships have supported his research in North Africa and France.