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

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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

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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 »

Osama Esid, The fantastic Jawa (Cairo Street workers series), 2006 (DR)

Following the life of the Dictionnaire des Orientalistes (we talked about it already), I’ll be participating on the 3rd conference that prepares the new edition of the Dictionnaire with another analytical volume. It’s a three days conference with 60 speakers from both sides of the Mediterranean aiming at shedding light on the old orientalist practices and renewing perspectives. The ultimate goal is to evaluate the dialogue of Orientalism with and within the Orient.

I’ll talk in the F. Pouillon’s round table #2 “inventing the  Tradition” : Cairo’s Museum of Arab Art: Anatomy* of an Orientalist institution in the Orient (1881-2010).

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Here is a short book review of Silvia Naef’s Y-a-t-il une « question de l’image » en Islam ? [litt. Is there ‘a question of image’ in Islam? / trans. Pictures and Aniconism in Islam] (Paris, Téraèdre, 2004 / published in German in 2007). It was written in 2006 but published in 2004 [sic!] in Studia Islamica. It’s available online on Jstor. If I were to write it again I would write something very different. Reviewing that book offers a chance to discuss the issues of Orientalism and how the contemporary understanding of pictures and images is embedded in the 19th c. conception of an essentialist prohibition of pictures in Islam.

A propos de Silvia Naef, Y-a-t-il une « question de l’image » en Islam ? Paris, Téraèdre (collection « l’Islam en débats »), 2004, 132 pages.

1. La question de l’image en Islam est-elle caricaturale ? « L’affaire des caricatures » aux premiers mois de 2006 a réveillé de vieux démons d’une opposition Occident-Orient. Des caricatures du Prophète de l’Islam publiées dans le magazine danois Jyllands-Posten mettaient le feu aux poudres. Pour les commentateurs, peu importaient les dessins, leur pertinence ou impertinence, le bon ou le mauvais goût, qu’ils aient été vus ou non, c’était le principe de l’interdiction de la représentation figurée (en particulier celle du Prophète) qui avait été enfreint. Ce qui était alors apparu comme une haine de l’Occident pour les uns répondait à ce qui était vécu comme une haine de l’Islam[1] pour les autres. Le débat s’est donc résumé à une opposition de partis autour d’une idée reçue sur l’Islam, des mieux enracinées dans les consciences, celle d’une société sans images. Read the rest of this entry »

News and updates

April 5, 2011

Until #Feb17 events in Libya, I was in charge of a team whose responsibility was the creation of a centre for digital conservation of Libyan historical archives in Tripoli. Of course, our activities stopped and I’m back in France.
I’ve found a shelter near Lille and settled in front of the computer.

What’s on the shelf now?

I’m looking for a job in Heritage management and/or research. I’m applying widely to positions in Middle East, North Africa and Europe. Read the rest of this entry »

Kimiko Yoshida - Japon -Les mariées intangibles - Autoportrait, 2005

Few news after a long silence: I moved to Libya where I am working on the creation of the Digital Center for the Conservation of National Archives ( مركز التوثيق الإلكتروني للأرشيف الوطني ).
More about this in a few weeks.

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile, I will participate to that conference “L’Orient créé par l’Orient” on the 10th of November at the Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris.  I will talk in the second panel: Nouveaux chantiers: archéologie, ethnologie, droit musulman.

Here is the complete program:  click, click

Le mercredi 10 novembre 2010, de 9h30 à 18h30

Institut du Monde Arabe / Institut d’études de l’Islam et des Sociétés du Monde Musulman

Coordinateurs : François POUILLON, EHESS & François ZABBAL, IMA

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How does a book live after its publication?

Last year, I announced  the release of the Dictionnaire des orientalistes de langue française (F. Pouillon ed., Paris, Karthala, 2008).   One year later, the book is almost outsold and received  a deserved (almost unexpected) audience. Therefore the critical work on evaluating orientalism is going on!

– A website has just been launched by the editors: http://dictionnairedesorientalistes.ehess.fr/
It features the life of the book after its publication (reviews, conferences, etc.) and the ongoing continuation of the work started in 2000: exploring new paths, intending reequilibration of the diverse geographical and cultural spaces of orientalism, forgotten names… Still in the making.

– A conference on orientalism 50 years after the Independances, 30 years after Edward Said’s book and polemics is being planned for June 2011 in Paris: “L’orientalisme, et après ? Médiations, appropriations, contestations“. It sounds as a promise for heated debates.
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Nouvelle publication!

January 3, 2009

cover

J’ai participé à cet ouvrage impressionnant et passionnant, à consulter et à acheter de toute urgence!

Dictionnaire biographique des orientalistes de langue française:

Du Maroc à la Chine, l’Orient n’a pas cessé de fasciner un Occident partagé à son égard entre la convoitise et la peur, l’enchantement et la répulsion, le désir de connaître et la volonté de conquête. De la Renaissance à nos jours, des hommes le plus souvent, des femmes quelquefois, ont parcouru les routes lointaines, appris des langues inouïes, observé des mœurs étranges et rapporté de leurs voyages des images, des manuscrits, des objets, des récits et des fables. D’autres en ont rêvé, parlé, sans jamais s’y rendre. Si le terme d’« orientaliste » nous reste surtout pour qualifier des productions largement fantasmatiques (peinture, romans), il est d’abord attaché à une discipline savante qui s’est inscrite dans des cadres institutionnels solides. Il y eut aussi des cohortes de voyageurs, de missionnaires, d’informateurs, des collectionneurs, des prédateurs parfois, qui ont parcouru l’Orient sous toutes ses latitudes et en ont rapporté quelque chose. Artistes et savants, hommes célèbres et modestes médiateurs, éminents professeurs et aventuriers ambitieux, auteurs de chefs-d’oeuvre reconnus ou de travaux obscurs : Read the rest of this entry »