Dec 8, 2007–Jan 13, 2008

DI/VISIONS. Culture and Politics of the Middle East

A project by Catherine David.

Screenings, Presentations, Projections, Discussions

The House of World Cultures as a multidimensional documentation platform, projection screen and sounding board: intellectuals, actors from diverse fields, artists and film-makers from the Middle East illuminate the context in which the current situation with its ‘Divisions’ and exclusion has arisen and show new ways out of the crisis.

Three generations of observers and political and cultural actors from the Middle East will have an opportunity to present their views. Their talks with Catherine David can be followed every day as large projections on all levels of the House. A film programme showing new documentary films and mini-retrospectives will broaden our knowledge of culture and politics in the Middle East. Over two weekends (8 and 9 December and 11 to 13 January), the House of World Cultures will serve as a forum for talks and discussions with intellectuals and artists from various countries in the region.

In the Middle East, the long 20th century was marked by violence, division, expulsion and loss: from the division of Palestine to the wars of independence to the first Gulf War of 1990. Since 11 September 2001, however, this violent history, which also includes Islamic violence, has become the dominant background against which “reality” in the Middle East as well as cultural and social productions in the region are perceived. To the orientalist contrast of East and West have now been added several new dichotomies – use to simplify matters – such as ‘secular’ and ‘religious’, ’moderate’ and ‘extremist, ‘democracy’ and ‘tyranny’. DI/VISIONS aims to examine these oversimplifying cultural and political contrasts, which shape our views of the region.

Since 1916 at the latest, when France and Great Britain divided up the region between themselves, the drawing of colonial borders has shaped the geography, the institutions and the social structures of the Middle East. This process of dividing up territories has been the dominant strategy right up to the present. The current processes of globalisation and economic neo-liberalism have imposed new landscapes of division, exclusion and exile on the region. These are, in turn, continually reproduced in the societal languages and practices of art, town planning, education and the media. Consequently, DI/VISIONS proceeds from the conviction that a concrete vision can only be developed by reflecting upon the borders created by ‘division’.

Among the program guests are the sociologist Mona Abaza (Cairo), the flim director Hala Al Abdallah (Damascus/Paris), the author and filmmaker Sinan Antoon (Baghdad/California), the historian Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin (Jerusalem), the essayist and publisher Pierre Abi-Saab (Beirut), the poet and political analyst Tamim Al-Barghouti (Cairo/Berlin), the political scientist Meron Benvenisti (Jerusalem), the historian Ussama Makdissi (Houston), the literature theorist Samah Selim (Marseille), the essayist Wael Sawah, the historian Fawwaz Traboulsi (Beirut/Berlin), the political scientist Sherif Younis (Cairo/Berlin), the sociologist and political scientist Sami Zubaida (London).

Project management: Hila Peleg. Architecture: Juan Lucas Young.

The program is conceived within the broader framework of the Berlin-based research program of the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, the Fritz Thyssen Foundation and the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, “Europe in the Middle East; the Middle East in Europe ” which explores the historical, social and cultural entanglements that have both given meaning to the terms ‘East’ and ‘West’ and shaped their mutual modernities.