Visual Culture in the Modern Middle East

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<P>This timely book examines the power and role of the image in modern Middle Eastern societies. The essays explore the role and function of image making to highlight the ways in which the images "speak" and what visual languages mean for the construction of Islamic subjectivities, the distribution of power, and the formation of identity and belonging. Visual Culture in the Modern Middle East addresses aspects of the visual in the Islamic world, including the presentation of Islam on television; on the internet and other digital media; in banners, posters, murals, and graffiti; and in the satirical press, cartoons, and children’s books.</P>
<P>Introduction<BR>I. "Moving" Images<BR>1. Images of the Prophet Muhammad In and Out of Modernity: The Curious Case of a 2008 Mural in Tehran /Christiane J. Gruber <BR>2. Secular Domesticities, Shiite Modernities: Khomeini’s Illustrated Tawzīh al-Masail /Pamela Karimi <BR>3. Memory and Ideology: Images of Saladin in Syria and Iraq /Stefan Heidemann <BR>4. "You Will (Not) Be Able to Take Your Eyes Off It!": Mass-Mediated Images and Politico-Ethical Reform in the Egyptian Islamic Revival /Patricia Kubala <BR>II. Islamist Iconographies<BR>5. The Muslim "Crying Boy" in Turkey: Aestheticization and Politicization of Suffering in Islamic Imagination /Özlem Savaş <BR>6. The New Happy Child in Islamic Picture Books in Turkey /Umut Azak <BR>7. Sadrabiliyya: The Visual Narrative of Muqtada Al-Sadr’s Islamist Politics and Insurgency in Iraq /Ibrahim Al-Marashi <BR>8. The Martyr’s Fading Body: Propaganda vs. Beautification in the Tehran Cityscape /Ulrich Marzolph <BR>III. Satirical Contestations<BR>9. Pushing Out Islam: Cartoons of the Reform Period in Turkey (1923–1930) /Yasemin Gencer <BR>10. Blasphemy or Critique?: Secularists and Islamists in Turkish Cartoon Images /Pinar Batur and John VanderLippe <BR>11. Naji al-Ali and the Iconography of Arab Secularism /Sune Haugbolle <BR>IV. Authenticity and Reality in Trans-National Broadcasting<BR>12. Arab Television Drama Production and the Islamic Public Sphere /Christa Salamandra<BR>13. Saudi-Islamist Rhetorics about Visual Culture /Marwan Kraidy <BR>Bibliography<BR>Notes on Contributors <BR>Index </P>



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Aisual Culture in the Modern Middle East
Aisual Culture in the Modern Middle East
This book is a publication of Indiana University Press Office of Scholarly Publishing Herman B Wells Library 350 1320 East 10th Street Bloomington, Indiana 47405 USA
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Visual culture in the modern Middle East : rhetoric of the image / edited by Christiane Gruber and Sune Haugbolle. pages cm. “The contributions were first presented at the April 2009 conference “Rhetoric of the Image: Visual Culture in Political Islam,” held in Magleaas, Denmark”—Acknowledgements. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-253-00884-8 (cloth : alk. paper) — ISBN 978-0-253-00888-6 (pbk. : alk. paper) — ISBN 978-0-253-00894-7 (ebook) 1. Art and society—Middle East--Congresses. 2. Visual communication—Middle East—Congresses. 3. Arts, Modern—20th century—Middle East— Congresses. 4. Popular culture—Middle East—Congresses. I. Gruber, Christiane J., [date] II. Haugbolle, Sune, [date] NX180.S6V475 2013 700.103—dc23 2013016444
1 2 3 4 5 17 16 15 14 13
PART 1. “Moving” Images 1 Images of the Prophet MuhammadIn and Outof Modernity: The Curious Case of a 2008 Mural in TehranChristiane Gruber
2 Secular Domesticities, Shiite Modernities: Khomeini’s IllustratedTawzih al-MasailPamela Karimi
3 Memory and Ideology: Images of Saladin in Syria and IraqStefan Heidemann
4 “You Will (Not) Be Able to Take Your Eyes Of It!”: Mass-Mediated Images and Politico-Ethical Reform in the Egyptian Islamic Revival Patricia Kubala
PART 2. Islamist Iconographies 5 The Muslim “Crying Boy” in Turkey: Aestheticization and Politicization of Suffering in Islamic ImaginationÖzlem Savaş
6 The New Happy Child in Islamic Picture Books in TurkeyUmut Azak
7 Sadrabiliyya: The Visual Narrative of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Islamist Politics and Insurgency in IraqIbrahim Al-Marashi
8 The Martyr’s Fading Body: Propaganda vs. Beautification in the Tehran CityscapeUlrich Marzolph
Part 3. Satirical Contestations 9 Pushing Out Islam: Cartoons of the Reform Period in Turkey (1923–1928)Yasemin Gencer
10 Blasphemy or Critique?: Secularists and Islamists in Turkish Cartoon ImagesJohn VanderLippe and Pınar Batur
11 Naji al-Ali and the Iconography of Arab SecularismSune Haugbolle
PART 4. Authenticity and Reality in Trans-National Broadcasting 1 2 Arab Television Drama Production and the Islamic Public SphereChrista Salamandra
13 Saudi-Islamist Rhetorics about Visual CultureMarwan Kraidy
Above all, we would like to thank our contributors, all of whom have worked hard and patiently in the editorial process of this volume. The contribut ions were first presented at the April 2009 conference “Rhetoric of the Image: Visual Culture in Political Islam,” held in Magleaas, Denmark, under the auspices of the New Islamic Public Sphere Programme at Copenhagen University. We are grateful for the financial and intellectual support of the program, in particular its director Jakob Skovgaard-Petersen, and Charlott Hoffmann Jensen, who was a brilliant organizer of the event. We wish to thank everyone present at the conference fo r playing their part in the rich discussions and debates that took place, including Ali Atassi, Zaki r Hossein Raju, Layal Ftouni, and Vasiliki Neofotistos, whose contributions are regretfully not included here. For their helpful comments and help, Christiane wis hes to thank Peter Chelkowski, Ulrich Marzolph, and Ali Boozari. Many thanks also go to S une, who led the way with the conference in Copenhagen, and whose sharp intellect, hard work, and patience saw this volume reach completion. Christiane is also indebted—for the fourth time—to Janet Rauscher, who agreed to copyedit the entire volume prior to its submission to Indiana University Press. At the press, our heartfelt thanks go to Robert Sloan for his unwavering and enthusiastic support of this and other projects in Islamic studies, art history, and visual culture. Last but certainly not least, we are grateful to the Freer F und in the Department of the History of Art at the University of Michigan, which provided a generous publication subvention that made the inclusion of a color-plate insert possible. For his part, Sune would like to thank Walter Armbrust, Daniella Kuzmanovic, Andreas Bandak, Lucie Ruzova, Samuli Schielke, Roschanack Shaery-Eisenlohr, and Sonja Hegasy for valuable help and theoretical pointers in the writing process. A great many more have influenced my thinking on visual culture, too many to mention here. In Palestine, Nathalie Khankan, Basil Ayish, Kefah Fanni, ‘Adil Samara, Moslih Kanaaneh, Abdul Rahim al-Shaykh, and Vera Tammari all opened their doors to me and offered invaluable help. Thanks to Christiane, without whom this book would surely not have seen the light of day and whose lively wit, exceptional discipline, and good humor make any joint project a pleasure. Most of all, I am gratefu l to Lindsay Whitfield for her loving support throughout this project, for coping with my absence s and frustrations, and for believing in my abilities to see my ideas through.
Expanding the Borders of Visual Culture From television and computer screens to billboards and magazines, images speak to modern human beings, shaping our social imaginaries and ou r visual cultures.1 The term “visual culture” describes the mechanisms that produce and recycle v isual material in various public cultures. Moreover, since the late 1980s it has come to desig nate a new interdisciplinary field of study, departing from the traditional methods of art histo rical inquiry to incorporate theoretical insights from literature, anthropology, sociology, cultural theory, gender studies, film, and media studies in order to examine a wider range of visual materials. Largely a disciplinary offshoot of cultural studies, which gained prominence in England from the 1950s onward,2more narrowly defined the field of visual culture has not been without its pr oblems and critics. Debates continue to unfold, calling into question, for instance, whether visual culture is indeed an academic discipline with specific methodologies and objects of study, or, co nversely, an interdisciplinary movement whose course may be more short-lived than expected.3 Through the proliferation of visual culture readers, anthologies, studies, and journals, the very least that one can say is that a large scholarly apparatus has emerged, suggesting strongly that visual culture is a field that over the last three decades has engendered rich and textured discussions on the manifold roles of images in the public domain of everyday life.4Anchored within such discourses, this volume takes the position that visual culture indeed functions as a productive field of inquiry and is most useful as an interface between the many disciplines that treat visuality—predominantly, though not exclusively, in modern and contemporary cultures. At the center of this multidisciplinary field of research—propagated largely, to date, by scholars of Euro-American popular materials—are questions about image production and reception, as well as the culturally contingent practices of looking. Without a doubt, the field’s scholarship has revolved around television, the internet, and advertising.5Additionally, visual phenomena as varied as cinema, painting, photography, cartoon and poster arts, graffiti and street art, videos, and online digital production have been of interest, as all share common traits in that they represent the world through images—still or moving—in turn contributing to the development of collective notions of shared cultural identity and values. Today, as with the paradox of culture itself, visual culture is both globalizing and localizing— quite often simultaneously.6and internet media especially allow for a complex Satellite interconnectedness of global systems in which images are produced and consumed on a wider scale and quicker pace than ever before. In such cases, visual spheres of interaction are determined less by geography than by technology. The prominence of new media within the field’s scholarship does not indicate that visual culture is merely a function of new and faster means of communication since the internet revolution, or that the study of visual materials should be simply placed under the fold of media studies.7humans are not more visual today than they were in the past; they simply Indeed, function in different scopic regimes, which include multiple modern systems of communication that often combine sound, text, and image in which the v isual cannot be “hypostatized” as a wholly different substance or entity.8 Visual representations and constructions of the world are by no means particular to the modern era. Indeed, pictured narratives have illuminated humankind’s secular life and religious experiences throughout the centuries in a wide range of cultura l contexts. This said, the mass media have nevertheless changed the speed of production and ci rculation of images around the world, delocalizing them from their original cultural mili eus for immediate reception and creative rearticulation in new geographical and social contexts. Because of the possibilities afforded by near-
instantaneous televisual and digital communication, visual culture’s disciplinary boundaries have become porous, and its borders have expanded to encompass various areas of the world. As a result, new geographical, temporal, and aesthetic domains m ust be established and explored within a discipline that to date has been largely characterized by its approach to popular materials in modern Euro-American contexts.9 The aim of this volume is to expand the field’s object domains and methodological approaches by exploring the ways in which images and visuality function beyond Europe and North America— more specifically, within modern Middle Eastern con texts. These contexts include, primarily, countries in the Middle East, as well as zones, real or digital, in which an individual or a collective body—defining itself in the broadest possible terms as “Middle Eastern” and sometimes “Muslim”— presents and projects itself by visual means. Tackling visual materials and practices of image-making and spectatorship in Middle Eastern contexts is an important undertaking, particularly in light of the flawed notion that images do not exist or are prohi bited in Islam, a misconception that became greatly entrenched in the public perception of Islam during and after theJyllands-Posten cartoon controversy of 2005–2006. Related to this misconception is the notion that Mu slim-majority societies in the Middle East are largely dominated by sounds, recitation, and listening. A European modernist hierarchy of the senses —which emerged during the Age of Enlightenment and retained its relevance through the twentieth century—privileged visuality and the ostensibly measured (and masculine) gaze of the rational individual, who perceives and controls the world. The gaze occurs in viewers through a process of hailing or interpellation and, much like images, can be quite varied, ranging from naïve, assaultive, policing, to normalizing. It also can catalyze a kind of ocular pleasure (or “scopophila,” per Freud) in its viewing audience, thereby engendering both voyeuristic and exhibitionist tendencies.10 Conversely, as Charles Hirschkind has demonstrated, Muslim societies have been depicted in Orientalist frameworks as displaying a preference for the reception of sound over the production and consumption of images.11support such evidence, scholars have highlighted the ways in which To knowledge in the Islamic world has been transmitted via oral learning (sama’), as well as through practices of oral prayers (dua’) and qur’anic recitation.12Due to its relationship to textual literacy, orality within Islamic traditions has benefited fro m the attention of a number of scholars (including Michael Cook and Hugh Kennedy), who have elucidated aural practices, their links to textual systems, and the transmission of knowledge more bro adly. While such discussions are fruitful in many ways, they nevertheless tend to gloss over vis uality, viewership, and the image’s many manifestations and roles within modern Muslim contexts, including those holistic systems of creative expression that, more often than not, encompass a panoply of sensory experiences. We believe that it is necessary to move beyond such facile binaries, even if public debate seems only too happy to return to them. Practices of writing and reading, listening and watching, together form important expressive cultures in all societies, including those of the Muslim Middle East. The problem is that the surface of sensory cultures in the Middle East, and their links to other regimes o f the senses, has barely been scratched. Visual culture can help us move in the direction of studies that take overlapping sensory registers seriously, and t he studies that emerge can serve as important correctives to popular misconceptions, which patent ly fail to engage with the image and the discursive spaces that it generates. Just as import antly, visual culture helps to understand mass-mediated cultural production and its impact on mode rnity since the nineteenth century, in both secular and Islamic registers.
Images in Visual and Virtual Space
In the 1980s, the “cultural turn” had its most noticeable impact in Middle East studies through the work of Edward Said.13 Since the 1990s, other theorists of culture and so ciety—prime among them Talal Asad, Michel Foucault, Antonio Gramsci, and Timothy Mitchell—have influenced new work on varied topics concerning the Middle East. A number of significant monographs published since the 1990s have in common a theoretical preoccupation with how to situate and analyze culture, understood as a “whole way of life” made meaningful through systems of symbolic representation, in relation to social structures and the politics of identity.14All of this work proceeded apace despite the fact that culture as a bounded concept generate s skepticism among scholars, which is to be
expected given the dark shadow cast by the earlier, essentializing Orientalist discourses on Islamic and Middle Eastern cultures, against which Middle East Studies has had to reconstruct itself. The concept of culture has been subject to general uneasiness in anthropology and area studies at least since Clifford Geertz publishedThe Interpretation of Culturesin 1973.15raising any Despite number of methodological and theoretical problems concerning the relationship between material culture and culture as a bounded concept, cultural production (in its various iterations, including visual ones) has become increasingly important to t he national, ethnic, religious, and political ethnographies of discursive communities in contempo rary Middle Eastern societies. As a result, Middle East scholars have produced a series of inte resting studies on cultural production,16 nationalist cultures,17cultures, memory 18other forms of non-essentialist cultural formations, and in turn placing visual materials at the center of their investigations. Within the study of image-making after the “cultural turn,” W. J. T. Mitchell has identified what he considers a distinctive “pictorial turn,” which itself engendered visual culture as the disciplinary offspring of art history and cultural studies.19 Although the notion of a “pictorial turn” can be debated, certainly the field of visual culture moves scholarship beyond the fine arts, expanding into the study of new imaging technologies, methods of r eproduction, and the mass media. Representations of all kinds are understood as worthy of inquiry, since they form a significant mode of generating meaning among the many other signifyi ng systems that make up the totality of culture.20 To date, visual culture has tended to address the m ass media, especially photography and television. As Susan Sontag has eloquently pointed out, photographic images are powerful entities because they are fluid and thus interfere deeply with our perception of what is “real.” She notes: “Notions of image and reality are complementary. When the notion of reality changes, so does that of the image, and vice versa.”21 In other words, image can become perceived reality, and reality may turn out to be nothing but projected image, conflating both viewing systems into a cyclical circuit of ontological repartees. Likewise, televisual images reveal that the projection of reality can be constructed as sequenced movement so as to create moving representations, th emselves even closer to perceived reality through the analog of motion. By creating cinematic myths of “truth” and “realism,” subjective visual constructions nevertheless remain simulations that emerge from technical productions, audiovisual presentations, and audience readings. As in photographic practices, televisual images project a kind of reality through visual signs, who se meanings are formulated by those who produce them (i.e., the encoders) and those who receive the m (i.e., the decoders). Inevitably, such signs partake in a kind of “period rhetoric”—which, as Stuart Hall has pointed out, actively engages in the semantic codes of a culture—and take on various ide ological dimensions through the many contextual references in different discursive fields of meaning.22 A long line of critics, from the Frankfurt School to Foucault and Bourdieu, have warned against the false perceptions of freedom in scopic regimes dominated by market forces and/or the nation-state, which undergird power relations in modern so cieties and are, so the critics claim, a potential threat to democratic politics.23In such cases, the apparent fidelity of the representation to the object or concept represented (what one might call the ill usion of reality)24 results from discursive practices and various encodings that have been so n aturalized by the viewer that they appear altogether absent.25American spheres, has gainedcultural criticism, which originated in Euro-  This currency in Muslim contexts,26new private and semi-private audiovisual media in the Arab as Middle East and beyond have generated a wealth of mass-consumed narratives on authenticity and reality in recent years. Several of the articles in this volume engage with these narratives and the ways in which they engender multiple public spheres stim ulated by carefully constructed televisual discourses.27 Modern images of “reality” are tension inducing and subject to debate—not to mention productive of passive cognition that may lead to an uncritical adoption of the mass-mediated image of reality. However, none of the studies presented here suggests linear power relations between hegemonic producers and a receptive, duped audience. Rather, “reality TV” and “authentic” TV dramas have created new spaces for contesting the meanings of national culture, religion, and social norms. One of the most popular genres on satellite television is the Islamic talk show. Islamic talk shows, starring hugely popular television preachers, draw on a range of traditional Islamic cultural