Draw Me a Revolution: Aesthetics of Solidarity in the Trenches of Arab Hanoi

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5:30 PM to 7:00 PM
Russell Square: College Buildings
Khalili Lecture Theatre (KLT)
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Dr Zeina Maasri (University of Brighton)

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Mobilised by radical networks of solidarity, stretching from Cuba, through Algeria and all the way to Vietnam, an anti-imperialist revolutionary subjectivity was being constituted through a global flow of discourses and associated translocal visuality. In this expansive revolutionary geography of the global sixties, Beirut acted as a nodal site in and through which an aesthetic of solidarity with the Palestinian liberation movement converged and circulated along transnational circuits. How was the cosmopolitan ‘Paris of the East’ — as Beirut was then dubbed — reclaimed as a revolutionary nodal city in the imagination of its inhabitants and in networks of Arab intellectuals and artists who crossed paths in its many galleries, salons, publishing houses and leisure sites?

Drawing from my forthcoming book, Cosmopolitan Radicalism: The Visual Politics of Beirut’s Global Sixties , this paper demonstrates how, in the aftermath of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Beirut’s hitherto liberal modernist pursuits were politicised and its cultural infrastructure repurposed to serve an emerging revolutionary ‘Arab Hanoi’. My argument conceives of Beirut’s long 1960s (1958–76) as a liminal juncture, an anxious time and space when the city held out promises at once politically radical and radically cosmopolitan. Dar al-Fata al-Arabi, a pan-Arab publishing project launched in Beirut in 1974 and linked to the PLO, exemplifies the aesthetic embodiment of ‘Arab Hanoi’. I examine how it came to represent a radical node of transnational solidarity among Arab artists, intellectuals and writers committed to the Palestinian cause and to revolutionary change in the Arab world. In tracing the social life of a particular publication, from production in Beirut to international itinerary accompanying Yasser Arafat’s landmark speech at the UN in 1974, among other subsequent trajectories and translations, I reflect on the historical junctures and disjuncture of the Palestinian struggle with global politics of decolonisation; the translocal visuality of revolutionary armed struggle; tensions between radical art and diplomacy; and last but not least, the utopias and disenchantment of a generation of ‘politically committed’ Arab artists and intellectuals.


Speaker: Zeina Maasri (PhD) is a senior lecturer in the School of Humanities at the University of Brighton, UK. Before taking up her post at Brighton, she was both an independent graphic designer and an academic at the American University of Beirut (1999 – 2016) in Lebanon. She is the author of Off the Wall: Political Posters of the Lebanese Civil War (IB Tauris 2009) and curator of related travelling exhibitions and online archival resource (www.signsofconflict.org). Zeina is also co-editor with K. Bassil, A. Zaatari and W. Raad of Mapping Sitting: On Portraiture and Photography (2002). Her new book, Cosmopolitan Radicalism: The Visual Politics of Beirut’s Global Sixties , is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press in June 2020.


This event is open to the public and free to attend, however registration is required. Online Registration

Chair: Gilbert Achcar (SOAS)

Organiser: SOAS Middle East Institute

Contact email: lmei@soas.ac.uk