The first Maghreb Academic Network Postgraduate Conference, ‘The “Arab Spring” and Contemporary Cultural Production from the Maghreb’, took place at St. Antony’s College, Oxford on 5 June 2015. The event brought together postgraduate researchers from across the UK to examine the place of the so-called “Arab Spring” within cultural production in, on and from the broad geographical space of the Maghreb. The conference began with a brilliant keynote by Dr Siobhán Shilton (University of Bristol), entitled ‘Art and the “Arab Spring”: Aesthetics of Revolution between Europe and the Maghreb’, which examined artistic responses to the Tunisian revolution and argued that recent Tunisian artworks are beginning to articulate an ‘aesthetics of resistance’ to dominant political rule.
Following the keynote, Svetlana Sequeira Costa, the Artistic Director of Arts Cabinet, gave a presentation on an artistic exchange project between the Middle East and North Africa, the Nordic countries and the Baltic countries. Following lunch, the first panel, ‘Translating Ideologies of the “Arab Spring”’, analysed the role of translators in manipulating political discourses and altering the meaning of news broadcasts contemporary to the events of the “Arab Spring”. The second panel, ‘Naming the Causes and Prefiguring the “Arab Spring”’, looked at Maghrebi literature and film, investigating the extent to which certain literary texts, poems and films from across the Maghreb can be read as precursors to the “Arab Spring” or whether the narrative of causality might be challenged by certain aspects of contemporary cultural production. Though in different ways, the contributors all analysed the realities and myths of the “Arab Spring” in relation to the countries of the wider Maghreb and Maghrebi cultural production more specifically. The organisers would like to thank The Society for French Studies and the Middle East Centre, St. Antony’s College, Oxford for their generous support.
Kaya Davies Hayon, Manchester University
Related articles and books:
Laachir, Karima, ed., ‘Special issue: Contemporary Moroccan Cultural Production: Between Dissent and Co-optation’, Journal of African Cultural Studies 25(3) (2013)
Laachir, Karima and Talajooy, Saeed, eds., Resistance in Contemporary Middle Eastern Cultures: Literature, Cinema and Music (London: Routledge, 2013)
Shilton, Siobhan, ‘Art and the “Arab Spring”: Aesthetics of Revolution in Contemporary Tunisia’, French Cultural Studies 24(1) (2013), 129-45 http://frc.sagepub.com/content/24/1/129.full.pdf+html
Willis, Michael, Politics and Power in the Maghreb: Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco from Independence to the Arab Spring (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014)