The Politics of Art
Dissent and Cultural Diplomacy in Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan
Hanan Toukan




So, why Lebanon, why Jordan, why Palestine? Why am I writing a book about the contemporary art domains of three vastly different historical and political contexts with an emphasis on their relatively small and marginal capital cities? After all, many Lebanese would balk at the idea of having their cosmopolitan capital compared with Amman, the city often jokingly dubbed as the region’s “most boring” city, or even Ramallah, the Palestinians’ newly constructed de facto “capital.” Despite being taken over by the hyper-capitalist and massively constructed art and culture scenes of the Arab Gulf, Beirut was, and for many still is, considered one of the pillars of Arab cultural life. On another level, Beirut’s post-1990 cultural production scene operates within what some describe as the proto-institutional context of its failed state. Amman’s art and culture scene, on the other hand, has historically been presided by its stable national institutions and bureaucracies, while Ramallah’s contemporary art scene is located at the liminal nexus of the postcolonial and colonial, and therefore the noninstitutionalism of a colonized peoples and proto-institutionalism of a state supposedly in the making. The final three chapters of this book show how these differences define how the scenes respond to the neoliberal structural changes in the context of international development aid to civil society (Merz 2012).

As the old adage goes, “Cairo writes, Beirut publishes, and Baghdad reads.” This saying evokes the literary culture that flourished in the region before it was attacked by successive governments that left little space for either individual expression or money for scholarly pursuit. Neither Ramallah, the sleepy town that until the 1990s had functioned as a suburb of Jerusalem, nor Amman, with its historical legacy of twenty-two years of martial law imposed after the Six-Day War in 1967 and lifted only in 1991, could compete with the seaside capital’s traditional standing as one of the region’s most dazzling hubs of commerce, culture, and politics for most of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, until the outbreak of the civil wars of 1975–1990. Yet despite its legendary role as a capital of modernist literary experimentation and hub for political activists of all hues, Beirut has refashioned itself as a resurgent postwar cultural and financial capital brimming with cafés, restaurants, shops, galleries, and world-class artists—“a somewhat surprising development given the continuing regional tensions and lack of institutional support” (Karabell 2018), as the typical Western mainstream media representation of Beirut’s revival in the 2000s goes.

The early forces that shaped Beirut’s contemporary art landscape are the same structures put in place in the 1990s, which also found their way to Ramallah and Amman. As a result, all three cities were able to consolidate their places as safe havens for internationally funded civil society and democratization projects, especially since the fall of Baghdad in April 2003.21 Despite the severe political and economic challenges that define the relationship between people and their governing elites in each of these contexts, and regardless of the prevalent public sentiment critical of the West and especially the US’s role in the region, these cities maintaine a semblance of stability captured in their openness to Western capital and financial investments, as well as World Bank restructuring requests. Especially in terms of size, these contexts appeared relaxed and manageable, for venture capitalists to navigate, aid workers to plan their projects in neighboring countries, and for expats to live, especially as the region around them crumbles under violent warfare.

Until the mid-1990s, international donors tended to support socioeconomic growth over cultural development projects. The foundations for this shifting political and cultural landscape in the parts of the region with which I am concerned were laid in the mid-1970s. During that period, Lebanon entered its long civil war, an official state of war continued between Jordan and Israel, and the Palestinian Occupied Territories writhed under continued Israeli occupation. Competition between the US and the Soviet Union, secular nationalist ideologies, and the balancing acts of nuclear threats governed global geopolitics in these years.22 Specifically, the period of the 1970s was a turning point in that it marked the failure and decline of Arab nationalism, the turn toward partial privatization, and the growth of political Islam. The 1967 defeat shattered popular confidence in a pan-Arabist vision of liberation led by nationalist dictators. By the early 1990s, following the course of Egypt’s infitah, a partial opening to private and foreign investment in the 1970s and 1980s, the struggles of the postcolonial period—firmly rooted in grand questions of liberation, modernization, and independence—began to make way for drastic neoliberal reforms and the breakdown of Arab unity that had already begun. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, Lebanon’s “second republic” emerged from the blood and rubble of civil war. At the same time, the Hashemite regime in Jordan and the PLO signed their peace treaties with Israel, and thus, the chaotic period dissipated; a new era of global capital was consolidated. The simultaneous dwindling of Soviet influence in the region at the end of the Cold War, the onset of the first Gulf War, and the subsequent UN sanctions on Iraq came with lucrative perks of membership to the growing global economy of international development and humanitarian aid, real estate, banking, and the creative industries (Daher and Maffi 2014).

After expressing disillusionment with revolutionary nationalism, a part of Arab public discourse gravitated to political Islam, while another started to look at democracy and modernity—or rather, the lack of both—as Arab society’s main problem. Often described in oppositional terms, these two world-views nonetheless offered a range of propositions and alternatives for dealing with the region’s problems that sometimes coalesced. These included one or a combination of socialist, liberal, Islamist, nationalist, and internationalist ideologies. In these years, civil society assistance in the form of international aid to local NGOs constituted the linchpin of “international MENA (Middle East and North Africa) democracy promotion efforts,” which still today Lebanon, Jordan, and the Palestinian Territories benefit from.23 This phenomenon initially focused on more traditional international developmental categories and working frameworks described by terms such as gender, micro-credit, conflict resolution, children’s rights, human rights, good governance, and youth participation. These frameworks did not at first tend to the cultural production sphere as one of the antidotes to the problem of democracy in the region.

In the aftermath of 9/11, this cultural turn from purely economic development paradigms based on modernization theory toward attainment of human equality and freedom by way of top-down processes of democratization and human rights promotion became particularly acute. The attacks on the World Trade Center prompted the 2002 publication of the first series of Arab Human Development Reports, sponsored by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The report was the first comprehensive survey of the development status of the Arab world—its areas of concern ranged from education and health to knowledge production, freedom, women’s rights, and security. It claimed that the region suffered from three major “deficits”: knowledge, freedom/democracy, and women’s empowerment (UNDP 2002). The politics surrounding this series of reports solidified and promoted a brand of thinking already prevalent among certain Western scholars, development agencies, and policymakers, along with their local partner civil society organizations in the region (Hawthorne 2004; Hamid 2010). If “secular Arab civil society” continues to pressure its authoritarian governments for meaningful reforms, this body of thought reasoned, then political transformations and a slow transition to democracy will reverberate across the region.24 The first two volumes of the report were received ardently in the EU and the US, becoming the basis for the policy and practice of restructuring cultural and social fields within the framework of a renewed and more inclusive practice that emphasized cultural development as part of a culture and creative industry framework as opposed to “diplomacy,” or the practice of conducting relations between nations. By the 1990s, the latter had become weighed down by its baggage of historical secrecy and its shadowy political role. Even some members of the Western governmental and nongovernmental cultural funding organizations that I interviewed during field research in the 2000s expressed a need to reshape the public perception of their work from diplomacy to cultural understanding.25 For its part, the creative industry was shaped by the movement toward a postindustrial “knowledge economy” predicated on a rising class of horizontally networked global civil society actors, who emphasized and were invested in nurturing creativity and information as forces of entrepreneurship (Defillippi, Arthur, and Lindsay 2006). Globally, this cultural work has been defined by the immaterial labor and the precariousness of the working conditions that it perpetuates through the gig economy. In Amman, Ramallah, and Beirut, the freelance artists, bloggers, activists, translators, filmmakers, architects, and writers submitting journalistic and literary pieces to online magazines have embodied the local take on this global shift. Additionally, a network of writing and contemporary art residencies, guest lectureships, and curatorial gigs have ensured that precarious cultural work has contributed its fair share to the growing ubiquity of worldwide travel, a feature intrinsic to neoliberal globalization that was abruptly halted in the early months of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.26

Subsequently, the international development industry’s support for the arts grew in the mid-1990s into what has been deemed development’s cultural turn in international development aid literature and policy circles, in reference to a shift away from positivist epistemology toward agent-centered approaches to understanding cultures and societies (Nederveen Pieterse 2010). In this light, individuals working in the domain of the arts, traditionally sidelined by mainstream international development aid, came to be seen by international donors working in policy as crucial partners for bringing about desired change centered around emancipated, democratic, economically liberal, and globally networked societies based on the rule of law. The camp of cultural producers primarily targeted was comprised largely of actors and local organizations loosely affiliated with the self-identified liberal progressive trend mentioned above.27 This category, comprised of a hodgepodge of many of the children of former leftists, nationalists, and Arabists, was critical of a host of postcolonial Arab nationalist regimes and the politics that dominated Palestinian and Arab resistance discourse, especially after 1967.28 At the same time, they were deeply inimical to the Islamist phenomenon that arose with the demise of the Arab left and the failures of the postcolonial nationalist regimes that came to blows in the Arab revolutionary process. This group of mostly Western-educated young professionals, comprised largely of members of the middle to upper classes, who self-identified as post-ideological and critical, and yet who partook in a global art industry constituted of uneven flows of cultural capital shaped by the neoliberal stage of capitalism is what I will call the post-1990 generation from here on. In recent years, global cultural funders have banked on the demographic cohort of the post-1990 generation as the progressive, intellectual, and creative face of hope for the region. In this book, I loosely distinguish this generation from what I will term the 1967 generation, that largely grew up during the “golden age” of pan-Arabism that shattered when Israel emerged victorious from the 1967 war.29 This event, the defeat of 1967, profoundly impacted that generation of Arab intellectuals in general and visual artists in particular (K. Boullata 1970b:105) and shaped their worldviews. I return to the long-term impact of the rupture of 1967 throughout the pages of this book.

A new class of Arab artists, particularly from Lebanon and Palestine, and to a lesser extent Jordan, emerged against these changing political and economic landscapes and became noticeable in the late 1990s to the early 2000s. This group of artists and their supporting networks and organizations rose from the rubbles of conflict, occupation, official states of war with Israel, and twentieth-century projects of radical anti-authoritarianism, pan-Arab liberation, Baathism, and Nasserism to react to local histories in their works. In the case of Beirut and the tradition of the city’s role as one of the leading cultural centers of the Arab world, its post–civil war generation of artists arguably led the way for Palestinian and Jordanian artists to join the ranks of a younger generation of Arab artists producing work that proposed new artistic language, form, and content. They did so first by subverting understandings of how the history of the twentieth-century wars in the region and the ideologies that drove them might be read and narrated by framing the artist as both witness and archivist, searching for traces of the past among fragments of memories from those still alive to share them; and second, by interrogating and challenging the traditional role of cultural institutions and the commercial gallery system in the creation of art by conceptual and physical intrusion onto public space; and finally, by probing prevalent and accepted understandings of hegemony and ideology in identity formation. Significantly, it was not necessarily that the formal emphasis was new but the more interdisciplinary exploration of intellectual and cultural development where theory, art engagement, and critical thinking coalesced in new ways and with a keener eye toward the global art sphere and its discourses, as opposed to more national concerns.

It is the post-1990 generation of cultural actors who have engaged more than any other group—either directly or indirectly, consciously or not—with the institutional manifestations of post–Cold War rhetoric on the role of cultural production and especially contemporary art in emancipation and societal development. These actors, who often possess the transnational links needed to accumulate cultural capital, include artists, curators, arts managers, art bloggers, art journalists, writers, and freelance art lecturers. These changes cannot be understood without reference to a larger body of poststructuralist literature related to the art of governance, which has been inspired by Michel Foucault’s thinking around “governmentality” (Foucault et al. 1990) and the larger critique of neoliberalism that it is embedded in.30 In this framework, neoliberalism is understood to be a set of global macroeconomic practices that construct new subject identities, mentalities, rationalities, spaces, and forms of knowledge production in the everyday micro-practices of societies that merge in the making of the political. Within the site of contemporary arts production, a new conception of art’s relationship to the political has been articulated parallel to and, as I argue in the following pages, constitutive of neoliberal changes in the urban landscapes and sociopolitical contexts that have taken place over the past twenty years in the three settings I focus on. These neoliberal changes include above all the emergence of a body of young, educated, and liberal cultural entrepreneurs, curators, and investors in the arts who see the domain as a chance to reshape their cities’ landscapes, legends, and futures without having to directly intervene in formal politics. This new political, so to speak, takes seriously the role of the publics, public space, emotions, and affective encounters, as well as the emphasis it places on the importance of the global circulation of ideas and praxis of cultural production inspired by local circumstances. It was arguably emblematized most brilliantly in the early days of the Arab uprisings of 2011, when the peoples of the Arab world entered what was to become a long and trying period of revolt. Even though the initial mass uprising that began in late December 2010 largely bypassed the Lebanese, Jordanian, and Palestinian contexts, it nonetheless ignited anew these subjective formations that were already in the process of unfolding vis-à-vis citizens’ relationship to power and public space.31

Set apart from Damascus—the heart of al-Sham (Levant) to which these three cities also intrinsically belong—the narrow ruling elite from Amman, Beirut, and Ramallah have cooperated closely with the US and the EU on matters of regional security and economic ties, as well as the global war on terror (GWOT). Like Egypt, Jordan, a key ally in the GWOT, enjoys an extensive network of security assistance, military training and cooperation as well as intelligence sharing with the US, while the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and the Lebanese military have similarly, although to a lesser extent in Lebanon’s case, also benefited from US military aid and EU security cooperation in the form of military training, arms sales, army personnel equipment, and intelligence exchange (Jeffrey and Eisenstadt 2016).33 Since the 1990s, these cities have also experienced a series of neoliberal reforms of their economic practices. Reformers believed that “citizen well-being” was best served through liberating entrepreneurial freedoms in an institutional framework that hinges on private property rights, which encourage heavy-handed urban gentrification, free trade, and free markets. The PNA’s function in the Occupied Territories, the Hashemite regime’s function in Jordan, and the Lebanese government under the policies of the late prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri have created and protected this institutional framework where the state and the business class are closely intertwined. The symptoms of this political shift are many. Political institutions and parties have retreated from any form of welfare provision. The seeming absence of any explicit decolonization agenda has led to both territorial and social fragmentation, rendering the Palestinian people even more vulnerable. The history of anti-colonial struggle with regard to Palestinian resistance to Israeli domination, the ideals of popular resistance and survival, the experiences of community organization, and the ethos of radical politics more generally have conceded for the sake of profit, free exchange, and open markets (Abourahme 2009). Urban lifestyles, emancipatory neoliberal discourses, claims to social sustainability, and sociospatial political dynamics, along with the changing roles of the US in both Lebanon and Jordan and the PNA in Palestine have cemented class disparities and consumerism by locking each into a growing service economy that has marginalized other previously thriving economic sectors.

Adam Hanieh (2011b) shows how the internationalization of Gulf capital throughout the economies of the Middle East has been a central feature of regional capitalist development over the last two decades. For instance, he argues that in regard to Palestinian class formation after Oslo, the internationalization of capital has gone hand in hand with the process of peace making, a development at the heart of the economic doctrine of neoliberalism. For Hanieh, Palestine’s classes—and I would emphasize, too, its class of globally oriented artists and culture and arts organizations—cannot be understood solely through the prism of Palestine’s subordinate position to Israel. Important Arab businesses and businesspeople based in the Gulf have played a critical role in restructuring society in ways that make it highly dependent on transnational capital.

Walking in Amman, Beirut, or Ramallah, one cannot help but be overcome by the noise, visual stimuli, and environmental pollution that comes with the construction boom of gated communities, malls, theme parks, and more recently, relatively large-scale museums and cultural centers that have replaced the old gritty streets, local specialty shops, and iconic turn-of-the-century and 1950–1960s modernist-style buildings in a violent process of gentrification. These cityscapes have come to both shape and express the particular vision of neoliberal economics, politics, and everyday life that is now the norm. Rami Daher explains that property is “the new consumer good par excellence” (Daher 2008: 22) and that real estate development is “the new religion in the Middle East” (22).33 Daher elaborates on how cities, inspired and spurred on by developments in Gulf cities, and especially Dubai, compete for international investment, business, and tourism in marked contrast to the 1960s when cities like Cairo and Beirut represented cutting-edge modernism and urbanism. Remarking on this south-south form of urban identification from which the Palestinians—despite their inability to travel—are also partaking in, Lisa Taraki and Rita Giacaman make the important point that the elites and the “new middle class” in the West Bank identify not just with Western urban spaces but also with the “hybrid trans-Arab urban culture” that has emerged in cities such as Amman and Beirut (Taraki and Giacaman 2006: 27).

Artists and artist spaces like large-and small-scale galleries, museums, archives, and performance centers have been central to these processes (Brones and Moghadam 2016: 239). Since the early 2000s in each of the cities, independent art spaces, partially funded by Western donor funding or local or regional art patrons, and most often registered as NGOs, have increasingly popped up in previously derelict parts of the city. Like in London, Paris, Mumbai, and Karachi, the cafés, art galleries, and restaurants followed suit (Daher 2007). More, the three cities are today humanitarian hubs. The scores of investors, international agencies, NGOs, and aid workers cycling through every few months to manage crises in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, or Gaza have also become part of the cultural fabric of these cities’ global and cosmopolitan feel.

Finally, the cities of Amman, Beirut, and Ramallah also share a south-south history of exchange, travel, and movement not only on the level of business transactions and shared economic interests but also on a personal one where families, friends, and work colleagues transcend the rigid political borders that separate the cities from each other. The American University of Beirut (AUB) has proved over the course of the twentieth century to be fertile ground for the exchange of radical ideas about politics, culture, and the arts for students from all over the region (B. S. Anderson 2011). Older-generation Jordanian and Palestinian artists whom I interviewed spoke about Beirut and the “cosmopolitan Arab” experience of resistance they lived attending university there in the 1960s and 1970s. For them, the experience was formative for their careers and life stories. For one eminent Palestinian-Jordanian pioneer abstract painter, Muhanna Durra, for instance, “Beirut was a place many Arab artists but especially Jordanians and Palestinians of his generation flocked to because one could express oneself as Arab in the way one chose to do so, without the pre-determinants of what an Arab artist or writer should or should not adhere to in their work—stylistically speaking—because they were ‘Arab.’34 For another renowned Palestinian artist, curator and educator Vera Tamari, it was where her radical ideas on the role of art in women’s organizing and education in the Palestinian camps, which she attended to in Ramallah after her return from her studies in the 1970s, were consolidated.35 For the post-1990 generation, this legend of Beirut and AUB, even as it reckons with ongoing and often violent neoliberal structural transformation, continues to enliven students’ and activists’ work even after they leave Beirut and return to their own cities to create cafés, art spaces, and reading and writing groups akin to what they experienced while living and studying there.

The direct exposure to the effects of Israeli domination in Palestine, and the indirect exposure in Lebanon and Jordan, is something the populations of each city continue to contend with. Israel’s colonization of Palestine has always been central to public discourse in Amman, Beirut, and Ramallah in ways that go beyond the rhetoric of unity and solidarity that the state-owned media spew out. Since the establishment of the state of Israel, Jordan and Lebanon have had to contend with the effects of Palestinian displacement and expulsion by the Israeli army. Since 1948, the Palestinian story, and more so the Palestinians, especially those residing in the decades-old United Nations Relief Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) refugee camps of Lebanon and Jordan, continue to trigger intense feelings among the populations in those countries. These range from sympathy and understanding to distrust and hostility. These sentiments manifest in different ways, not only on the level of everyday conversation and personal experiences of intermarriage and friendship, but also in public articulations, political statements, and legal statuses granted. Yet despite the obvious disparity between the conditions of sympathy and hostility that the discourse in various countries expresses toward the Palestinians, these attitudes are similar in that they tend to view the Palestinians (like the Syrians today) abstractly and Palestinian resistance as threating to national security and national cohesion. How the idea of Palestine and the imagination it historically inspired have played out in the discourse of public intellectuals, artists, and writers in the Levant is a common thread that intermittently ties the contemporary art scenes of Ramallah, Amman, and Beirut. This topic I occasionally return to in other sections of the book.

On a symbolic level, it was Ramallah and Amman that the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, who has informed so many contemporary artists’ works and writings (Rahman 2015), returned to after years of exile and the signing of the Oslo Peace Accords. An official invitation from the Jordanian government and its minister of culture led Darwish to agree to live between the two small and unassuming cities. It is known among his peers that Darwish said yes to the Amman invitation as a base to write, not because the city inspired his creativity but because it provided a retreat from the hustle and bustle of so-called state formation in post-Oslo Palestine’s early years and relatively easy access to Ramallah following the signing of the treaty. Amman has been perhaps unfairly described as a corridor for Palestinian artists and writers unable to travel through Israel yet desiring to access the world. This belief is embedded in a complex and intermeshed history between Jordan and Palestine, a reality wonderfully tackled in the long-term art project The River Has Two Banks (2012–2017).36 Yet the city has provided artists—especially those from Palestine (and later Syria and Iraq)—a safe haven through some of its most influential local art institutions, such as the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts since the 1980s, Darat Al Funun from the early 1990s, and later Makan House in the 2000s. And it was mostly to Beirut’s most globally connected and well-known contemporary arts organization, Ashkal Alwan, that artists from Ramallah (who could obtain a visa to enter the city) and Amman flocked to in the 2000s. They still do so today to meet with international curators and to participate in the now internationally recognized and accredited courses and workshops through the informal arts education school, Homework Space Program, which was established in 2011. Ashkal Alwan not only provided a platform for discussion and arts training for artists unable to access the global arts market and a formal arts training in Western capitals, but also significantly invited members of the growing Palestinian contemporary art scene to participate in its series of Home Works events, a momentous biennial forum dedicated to “critical” and “contemporary” cultural practices in the region where international funders, curators, and critics embarked upon Beirut and wined, dined, and talked shop with a select group of artists from the region for a short period of time. This openness of the cities and their artists unto each other and the world, in addition to their proximity to each other and relative “stable” contexts, compared to war-torn countries like Iraq, Syria, and Yemen put them in the privileged position of being on the travel itineraries of European cultural managers and international curators scouring the globe for new art and new ideas.


21. See Daher (2011) for an analysis of cultural heritage NGOs working in the domain of art and architectural preservation in Palestine, Lebanon, and Jordan. He provides a thorough account of the new young class of cultural entrepreneurs and patrons of the arts who are taking over what should normally fall under the state’s jurisdiction.

22. Jordan and Israel officially warred for decades. Israel took control of the West Bank, which had previously belonged to Jordan, in the Six-Day War of 1967. Relations before the signing of a 1994 peace treaty were not formalized, but despite outward violence, Jordanian Hashemite kings had strong ties to Jewish leaders through secret backchannels.

23. See, e.g., Carothers (2003).

24. I scare-quote these terms to highlight their contested nature, especially in the way they have been appropriated by international development practitioners to push forth their transition to democracy theory. The use of such terminology demarcates the category of secular civil society activists that donors traditionally dealt with from their Islamic civil society counterparts but with whom they do not generally collaborate. As I write these words, it seems neither camp in this dual conception of Arab civil society has played a leading role in bringing about the revolutionary movements sparked first by the Tunisian uprising of January 2011 and then again in 2018–2019. The current rebellions in the Arab world are largely horizontal, and participation has encompassed the entire demographic and social spectrum cutting across national, ethnic and religious lines. How these events will unfold remains to be seen, but in the past ten years it has become increasingly obvious that the Washington-and EU-led formula of civil society and democratization in the region has failed to achieve what it set out to do. See Cavatorta and Durac (2010) for a comprehensive study on how civil society and democratization promotion had the opposite effect of propping up the very authoritarian regimes that it purportedly set out to undermine.

25. I elaborate in detail on this point in chapter 1.

26. At the time of writing, the global coronavirus pandemic has canceled an entire way of life aong with structures of support for many contemporary artists, for whom international travel has been a central pillar in their careers. How this increased difficulty in traveling and the reliance on going digital will affect the content of artwork, its funding structures, and exhibition possibilities in the long term is yet to be seen.

27. See Hanssen and Safieddine (2016: 194).

28. For how the losses of 1967 impacted the form and content of art, see especially Boullata (2009: chap. 3)

29. The generations I designate here are partly drawn from how social actors in my fieldwork referred to each other. These delineated categories are also artistic milieus in Bourdieu’s sense of socially stratified patterns of perception, classification, and thinking that shape a specific lifestyle. In his approach, the link between age and generational cohort is not the defining feature of a generation but is how each is marked by a shared worldview and defined by what happens when actors arrive to a field and enter its habitus (1984, 1990). To be clear, I use the term “generation” throughout the book to denote the range of Arab cultural actors who share certain sensibilities often defined by ideological, generational, and experiential habitus, but I do so with trepidation and in full recognition that sometimes these generations fuse on more than one level. There are two reasons for this: first, because these categories of identity are not static, and second, because conversations and collaborations between members of the two groups are fairly very common. Yet for all the fluidity of the generational interactions, there is a difference in how the relationship to transnational circuits of art and Western sources of funding are perceived. I will delve more into this in chapter 3 where it becomes obvious that historical ruptures around 1967 and 1990 and then again 2011 (a period I do not treat in this book) triggered changing outlooks on how to understand resistance in cultural production. How the media revolution influenced artistic and literary expressions and their circulation is of fundamental importance between the post-1967 and post-1990 generational categories. I am aware that artistic practices in Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan, for instance, can be further categorized in ways that correspond to domestic and regional political landscapes. But my interest here is in the macro-historical ruptures in epistemological frames and lived realities of cultural actors that came first with 1967 and then after the end of the Cold War. For a thorough description of how the 1967 and 1990 generations and their outlooks are split and reflected in similar literature, see Halabi (2017). On visual art, see Rahman (2015: 4–9).

30. For more on Foucault’s thinking on techniques by which a society is rendered governable, see Foucault et al. (1991). Most literature on neoliberalism takes a critical stance on its principles of global capitalism and the destruction of the welfare state (e.g., Chomsky [1999]; Touraine [2001]; Hermansen [2005]; Saad-Filho and Johnston [2005]; Plehwe, Walpen, and Neunhöffer [2006]).

31. Philip Marfleet, for example, argues that the events that began in 2010–2011 were part of a process under way for many years during which Arab citizens—against all odds—created space for self-expression. For more on the study of political agency and new ways of understanding Arab politics in the wake of the revolutionary process, see Marfleet (2016). See also Hanafi (2012) and Kraidy (2016) for a rethinking of political resistance through the site of the Arab body.

32. US interests in Lebanon are centered around maintaining a strategic buffer between war-torn Syria and Israel. Lebanon is also regarded as a tactical front against terrorism in the region, starting with its own complicated relationship to Hezbollah. The US has provided Lebanon more than $1.5 billion in military assistance since 2006. See “Pentagon to Keep Backing Lebanon Military, Despite Hezbollah Gains,” Reuters, May 11, 2018, See also Lia (2007); “Lieutenant General Keith Dayton: United States Security Coordinator,” Ma’an News Agency, March 30, 2010,; Bedein (2009); Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (n.d.).

33. Daher further argues that the circulation of global capital (such as surplus oil revenues) in search of high-yielding investments, combined with excessive privatization, has transformed urban reality, inflated property values, fueled speculation, and altered the nature of public.

34. Interview with the author, June 9, 2013, Amman.

35. Interview with the author, May 17, 2017, Ramallah.

36. For a review of the entire project, see Harb, Hijjawi, and Touq (2018).