The Art of Resistance in the Middle East, An Illustrated Talk by Charles Tripp (SOAS) with Venetia Porter (British Museum)

Two of this country's most eminent scholars of Islam examine the ways in which art has been used in the Middle East to signal defiance of authority and to inspire resistance against tyranny


Art has been explicitly linked to political resistance movements, as in the posters produced by radical organisations or in graffiti mocking authority. Works of art have also been intended to bring about a shift in the way the world is viewed, flouting convention in order to disturb, disrupt and mobilise.

The talk will look at examples of posters, graffiti, paintings, sculptures, performance art and photography, and their use in challenging the powers of the status quo, from occupied Palestine to the uprisings of 2011. Cairo’s Tahrir Square in 2011 vividly showed how banners, posters, songs and street theatre could play a key role in mobilising citizens to defy the authorities and to reclaim public space. In other places, the ‘art of destruction’ has been used to flout authority, turning the images of presidents on their head. In both cases, there is an artistry of resistance that communicates with, enthuses and mobilises an emerging political public.

Charles Tripp

Charles is Professor of Politics with reference to the Middle East, at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. His research interests include the nature of autocracy, state and resistance in the Middle East and the politics of Islamic identity. He is the author of: Islam and the Moral Economy: The Challenge of Capitalism (Cambridge University Press, 2006); A History of Iraq (Cambridge University Press, 2007) and the joint author of Iran and Iraq at War (I.B. Tauris, 1988) and of Iran-Saudi Arabia Relations and Regional Order (IISS, 1996); editor of Contemporary Egypt: Through Egyptian Eyes (Routledge, 1993); and co-editor of Egypt under Mubarak (Routledge, 1989) He is currently completing a book on The Politics of Resistance in the Middle East to be published in 2012.

Venetia Porter

Venetia is a curator responsible for the collection of Islamic art as well as the collection of the modern and contemporary art of the Middle East. She studied Arabic and Islamic art at Oxford University and obtained her Ph.D on the medieval history and architecture of the Yemen from the University of Durham. Her particular areas of research and interest are Arabic inscriptions, amulets and seals, ceramics and contemporary Middle Eastern art which are the focus of her lectures and publications. In 2006 she curated the exhibition **_Word into Art: Artists of the Modern Middle East_** which was shown in the British Museum and in Dubai in 2008. Her most recent publication is **_Arabic Seals and Amulets_** in the British Museum (British Museum Company, 2011) She is currently engaged in the preparation of the exhibition **_The Hajj:Journey to the Heart of Islam_** which opens at the British Museum in January 2012.

2011Martin Keeley