Orientalism After Edward Said

February 13, 2016

Orientalism has been at the core of my study for more than a decade.

Orientalism is a research topic and, one might say, a way of life. Reading Mathias Enard’s acclaimed novel Boussole, seemed like a trip in my biography, or a biography of the my generation as a “post-Saidian” ‘Orientalist’. Can one be a post-saidian orientalist nowadays?

LS_1984_Cairene Billboards_45 web image

Lucien Samaha, Cinema Radio and Modern (Cairo Billboards), 1984, Printed 2014, Archival Pigment Print, 76.2×111.8 cm, Courtesy of the Artist and Lombard Freid Gallery, New York

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

I am happy to announce that the Ethiopian City Guides latest issue on Gondar has just been released by the French Centre for Ethiopian Studies (CFEE) in Addis Ababa. This is one of the last projects to emerge from those I (co)managed in Addis Ababa (2011-2014).

The idea of the collection is very simple: help tourists and visitors to discover the hidden gems of Ethiopian cities, thus encouraging them to spend one more night in these cities, and collaborating to the cities’ economy.

Gondar City-Guide, CFEE- Shama Books, Addis Ababa, 2015

Gondar City-Guide, CFEE- Shama Books, Addis Ababa, 2015

Read the rest of this entry »

What do Voltaire, Mozart, Bonaparte, Freud, Hergé, Elizabeth Taylor, and Michael Jackson have in common? 

To find out the answer, read Florence Quentin’s Livre de Egyptes, released on 29 January 2015, which explores the everlasting Western fascination for Egypt.

Extras on the set of Mankiewicz 's Cleopatra,1963

Extras on the set of Mankiewicz ‘s Cleopatra,1963

Read the rest of this entry »

On Friday 24 January 2014, the Cairo Museum of Islamic Art was severely damaged in a suicide car bomb attack that might have targeted the nearby State Security premises. The extent of the damages on artefacts is still unknown but reports describe the “indescribable” destruction of the building and display re-inaugurated in 2010 as many of the glass window panes were shattered as a result of the blast. It seems the museum was not a primary target but a collateral victim of a wave of terrorist attacks on the eve of the third anniversary of the 25 January Revolution due to its location.

Image

The Cairo Museum of Islamic Art is a unique institution because of its very location in the Middle East, in the land of Orientalism. This location questions the reciprocity of the East-West relation of Orientalism: Can displaying Arab art in an Arab country constitute an “oriental” answer to Orientalism?  Read the rest of this entry »

In these times of presents, I feel like offering a short reflection on the late historian of islamic art Oleg Grabar (1929-2011) and his legacy.  Grabar started his career when Orientalism was beyond critics and participated in reevaluating and transforming the field of Islamic studies. He managed to define the undefinable of the mixed influences and melting pot of islamic art. His studies on ornament also influenced contemporary art in Middle East and beyond. Respect.

This paper was published in the Dictionnaire des Orientalistes de langue française, 2d revised and enlarged edition, december 2012.

Block Carved with a Fan Pattern, ca. 720–724. Limestone, carved. Department of Antiquities, Qasr al-Qastal Archaeological Site, Jordan

Block Carved with a Fan Pattern, ca. 720–724. Limestone, carved. Department of Antiquities, Qasr al-Qastal Archaeological Site, Jordan

Read the rest of this entry »

Dictionnaire des Orientalistes de langue française, édition revue et augmentée

The Dictionnaire des Orientalistes is living a third life: the 2nd revised and enlarged edition has been released last week! It’s a new version of the Dictionnary I already talked about (see here). New entries were added, mistakes were corrected. In all, the 2d edition is about 100 pages thicker than the previous one. In the meanwhile, the team (I should write network) worked hard and published that book: Après l’orientalisme, l’Orient créé par l’Orient.  These are perfect christmas presents, aren’t they?

I was honoured to write new entries and correct old ones. I was specially honoured to write an entry for Oleg Grabar which inspired a lot my approach and still remain a model.

The newest of the Louvre galleries has opened this week: Islamic Art is now displayed in a marvel of architecture. Does Display (re)invent Islamic Art? This article examines how Islamic Art as an academic field was invented at the turn of the 20th century as it was being exhibited  in Paris, Munich or London. It analyses the French connection in the invention of Islamic art and reflects on the political meaning of exhibiting Islamic Art in a post-9/11 context and the Orientalist tradition: unveiling the Louvre veil on Islamic art.

The first islamic Art display at the Louvre: Delort de Gléon room, Pavillon de l’horloge, 1921

That article was published (in French) in Qantara, the cultural magazine of the Institut du Monde Arabe (Paris), #82, winter 2012. The issue was dedicated to the Invention of Islamic Art.

Musée du Louvre, Department of Islamic Art, Mario Bellini & Rudy Ricciott architects, 2012

Read the rest of this entry »

Is Islamic Art a Western invention? I open with this article a series of articles I’ve published this year on the invention of Islamic Art. It comes in line with the reopening of departments of Islamic Art a the Metropolitan  in November 2011 and at the Louvre expected in 2012. It leads to a reflection on the Orientalist tradition and the political meaning of exhibiting Islamic Art.

Poster & Matiss

Poster of "Meisterwerke muhammedanischer Kunst" exhibition, Munich, 1910, photo:DR. // Matisse and friends at the Oktoberfest, Munich 1910, DR.

Are contemporary exhibitions/museums of Islamic Art embedded in a century old Orientalist tradition?
Here’s a book review – published on Studia Islamica, 2011, 2 – of Avinoam Shalem & Andrea Lermer’s After One Hundred Years that celebrated the 100 years of the exhibition ‘Meisterwerk muhammedanischer Kunst’held in Munich in 1910. The aim of the organisers the Munich 1910 exhibition was to break up with Orientalism by linking Oriental Art to Modernism. The exhibition entered history that way with Matisse among other avant-garde artists visiting it. This book examines the heritage of this amazing exhibition considered as a major landmark in Islamic Art studies. This book review offers a chance to reflect on the history of exhibitions as a research topic. It also raises questions on the contemporary exhibitions of Islamic Art in the public space and their political discontent. Is exhibiting Islamic Art political? As more museums are being opened, the orientalist tradition raises under the cover of a so-called  Islamophilia supposed the counter post 9/11 islamophobia.

After one hundred years: the 1910 exhibition ‘Meisterwerk muhammedanischer Kunst’ reconsidered’, Andrea Lermer and Avinoam Shalem, Leyde, Brill, 2010, 401 p. Read the rest of this entry »

Statue de Bourdelle au Musée des Beaux-Arts d'Alger, DR.

For the 15 years now, demands of return, repatriation and restitution of artefacts stolen during the colonial period have been an endless diplomatic issue between former colonised and colonisers in Africa. How objects of cultural heritage became subjects of conflict?

Not all Africans countries claim for their ‘looted’ heritage, North African countries (Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco) barely asked for cultural artefacts to be repatriated. This article explains that difference through the analysis of 50 years of cultural policies in a post-colonial context. It raises questions that help reformulating the dead-end of the question of restitutions. How that difference enlights the relationship between the part (the object in exile) and the all (the heritage in situ)?
This complete article (in French) is now  on line on revues.org:

Jean-Gabriel Leturcq, « La question des restitutions d’œuvres d’art : différentiels maghrébins », L’Année du Maghreb [En ligne], IV | 2008, http://anneemaghreb.revues.org/431

Enjoy your reading*.

*I’m aware it is a very academic article. Research aims at fuelling cultural policies with new matters, doesn’t it!?

What is the meaning of an Ethnographic Museum in a post-colonial world in which boundaries between the Self and the Other are in a constant evolution? If the Self and the Other are a reflective myth, the Museum is a privileged machinery to construct the representation of Alterity, of Otherness.

Savignac, "Allez au Musée de l'Homme", Affiche, 1981, DR

The Museum orders, screenplays and formalises the re-presentation of the World. Therefore, the Museum appears a effective place to study the history of the representations of Others as in the case of the transformation of the old Paris’ Musée de l’Homme into the new unfortunate Musée du Quai Branly. [On the Quai Branly’s vicissitudes, refer to Kimmelman’s brilliant article: “Heart of Darkness in the City of Light“, New York Times, July 2 2006]

This book review [in French] of Benoît de l’Estoile’s, the Taste of Others [Le goût des Autres*] provides a chance to discuss the role of Anthropology and the Museum in the reprensentation of Alterity. Commenting on the book’s argument also provides an insight that reconsiders the role of anthropologists and intellectuals in the social and political debates on multiculturalism.

Anticipating on the conclusions and on further articles (to come here, stay tuned), I think that this book offered a good example of a certain school of Museum Studies that hardly consider museums as a research subject but as an object: the study of discourses about the museum overdetermines the topic of Otherness. Museum considered as a discourse is a powerful means to understand non said representations and give sense to nonsensical cultural discourses.

* Note: Le goût des autres / The Taste of Others: this is a literal translation as to keep on playing with the reference to Agnès Jaoui’s 2000 film on the experience of multiculturalism in France. As a complementary reading on the same topic, here’s a reference to Sally Price’s excellent Paris Primitive: Jacques’s Chirac Museum at the Quai Branly, Chicago, 2007… [here’s a book review in French].

Read the rest of this entry »