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August 29, 2009

Sorry I’ve been away for awhile. I went to a Cultural Studies Conference in Calabria, Italy organized by AILAE where I heard lectures by Ian Chambers, Franca Tamisari, Mireille Astore and Ghassan Hage among others. It was very exciting to meet other cultural scholars from around the world (though mainly Italy and Australia) and to become immersed in a number of theoretical projects that will inform my work for the next two years. 

I am here at the American University in Beirut. According to my friend last night, it is the number 2 university in the Middle East. (Number 1 is AUC in Cairo.) I am doing a degree in Middle Eastern Studies. I hope to study the contemporary renegotiations of the traditional line between art and politics as regulated and funded spheres and the similarly traditional crossings of this boundary. Beirut 2009 has a special role to play in this worldwide movement as an incubator, as a place with a singular energy that I am only beginning to understand. 

Beginning to think about art and politics: comments welcome.

For your perusal until then,

This past year has also seen: the devastating Gaza massacre of eight months ago, resulting in over 1000 civilian deaths; the election of a Prime Minister accused of war crimes; the aggressive extension of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands; the accelerated destruction of Palestinian homes and orchards; the viral growth of the totalitarian security wall, and the further enshrining of the check-point system. Such state policies have led diverse figures such as John Berger, Jimmy Carter, and Bishop Desmond Tutu to characterize this ‘brand’ as apartheid. Your TIFF program book may describe Tel Aviv as a “vibrant young city… of beaches, cafes and cultural ferment… that celebrates its diversity,” but it’s also been called “a kind of alter-Gaza, the smiling face of Israeli apartheid” (Naomi Klein) and “the only city in the west without Arab residents” (Tel Aviv filmmaker Udi Aloni).

 

How do Palestinians in Lebanon counteract the trauma of war and displacement? Mirene Ghossein discovered one of the ways when she visited Al-Jana, the Arab Resource Center for Popular Arts (al-jana.org) in West Beirut last year. “Their flower paintings are tiny miracles,” says Ghossein, “because there are no flowers at the refugee camps I visited.

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