Beirut in Contemporary Art

The Urban Experience of Post-Civil-War Beirut in Contemporary Artistic Productions

Judith Anne Naeff | Supervisor Christoph Lindner | University of Amsterdam 2011-2015

This research project aims at analysing contemporary artistic and literary productions as a reflection of the urban experience of post-civil-war Beirut within the framework of the efforts at reconstruction initiated by the Lebanese authorities.  Beirut was and is the focus of a complex configuration of conflicting social, political and economic interests, on a local and a regional level. Before, after and to a lesser extent during the civil wars (1975-1990), the city was a flowering centre of culture. In recent years the cultural productions have increasingly focused on the development of new, critical visions of Lebanese history and society, the effects of traumatic experiences and the preservation of a collective cultural memory. In the meantime, the authorities have started large-scale reconstruction projects within the urban space of Beirut, reflecting a specific vision of past, present and future. This project will investigate the tensions that arise between artistic and political visions of the present cityscape ofBeirut, which has to deal with a conflict-ridden past and a future impregnated with traumatic memories. Within the field of Middle Eastern Studies, this project seeks to contribute to a more refined understanding of post-civil-war Beirut by using new theoretical approaches derived from Cultural Studies, Urban Studies and Memory Studies. The project is important because Lebanon’s small but significant and innovative cultural scene has remained largely ignored by academic research, especially from an interdisciplinary perspective. In addition, the Dutch tradition of Middle Eastern Studies desperately needs input from the field of critical cultural studies.