Rearticulating the Aesthetic and the Nationalist: The Un-decidable Politics of Contemporary Palestinian Artistic Practices

Adila Hanieh

Advisor: Amal Amireh, PhD, Department of English

Committee Members: Roger Lancaster, Alison Landsberg

Enterprise Hall, #318
December 08, 2015, 02:45 PM to 11:45 AM


This dissertation’s object is the mode of articulation of the political with the aesthetic in contemporary Palestinian cultural practices. The research poses the question of the new valence of the political following the 1993 interim peace accords between Israel and the PLO. The dissertation examines two of the historically most developed fields of cultural praxis, and that often articulated esthetics with narratives of struggle for liberation: literature and the visual arts.
This dissertation’s research problem derives from the contradictory assessments of contemporary signifying practices: Palestinians face the prospect of the demise of their independence and return aspirations.  Yet, the socio-political field has been widely assessed as having become depoliticized and demobilized. Further, contemporary artistic production is empirically characterized by an unprecedented expansion and globalized exposure, and deploys its political thematics along prevalent international styles and strategies, in rupture with its previous militant approaches.  
The textual stakes and production processes of the objects of this research are analyzed within a critical and cross-disciplinary cultural studies approach. I frame the research with Laclau and Mouffe’s work on ideology theory and notion of the heterogeneity of the social space. The work of Fredric Jameson on Third World cultural expression and Jacques Ranciére’s on aesthetic regimes inform the textual analyses of this investigation. The Circuit of Culture model structures the mapping and analysis of production and circulation data.
My principal argument is that the projection of political and nationalist problematics in contemporary artistic praxis endures, despite the immediacies of its new libidinal cathected representational modes. However, the fragmented and ex-centered deployment of these practices renders their emancipatory dimension increasingly un-decidable and contingent.