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Professor Charles Tripp on Art and the Arab Uprisings (Event Recording)

In the third and final event in Arab Awakening's 'Tahrir Square Meme' series, Charles Tripp, professor of middle east politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies, provided a feast for the mind and the eye in his exploration of the power of art in the Arab Spring.

Arab Awakening
13 May 2012

In the third and final event co-hosted by the University of East London and Arab Awakening, Professor Charless Tripp argued that 2011 was not, as is often taken for granted, "year zero for Arab creativity". Rather, he argued, the Arab spring represented a more focused concentration of well-established dissident art, pointing to the defacement of a picture of Saddam Hussein by defeated Iraqi soldiers in 1991 as a powerful smashing of the symbolic power of the dictator's face.

Art is a reaction against oppression, and the danger for any observer, particularly in the west, would be to separate the art from its context. There is a risk of imposing a western interpretation, or embracing only the most "western-friendly" face of Middle Eastern Art that western commentators like ourselves have to guard against. Near the end of his talk, Tripp related a story of Banksy painting on the controversial West Bank wall. An elderly Palestinian told him it looked beautiful, before adding: "We don't want it to be beautiful, we hate this wall. Go home."

Special thanks are due to Alice Wagstaffe and Mazen Zoabi who went to great lengths to record the event and to edit the video.

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Hear from:

Paolo Gerbaudo Sociologist and political theorist, director of the Centre for Digital Culture at King’s College London and author of ‘The Mask and the Flag: Populism and Global Protest’ and ‘The Digital Party: Political Organisation and Online Democracy’, and of the forthcoming ‘The Great Recoil: Politics After Populism and Pandemic’.

Chantal Mouffe Emeritus Professor of Political Theory at the University of Westminster in London. Her most recent books are ‘Agonistics. Thinking the World Politically’, ‘Podemos. In the Name of the People’ and ‘For a Left Populism’.

Spyros A. Sofos Researcher and research coordinator at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University and author of ‘Nation and Identity in Contemporary Europe’, ‘Tormented by History’ and ‘Islam in Europe: Public Spaces and Civic Networks'.

Chair: Walid el Houri Researcher, journalist and filmmaker based between Berlin and Beirut. He is partnerships editor at openDemocracy and lead editor of its North Africa, West Asia project.

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