Accepted Paper:

Reclaiming the Political from Aesthetics: Exploring the Arab Spring and Aftermath  

Author:

Premjish Achari (Jawaharlal Nehru University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper argues that the cutting edge technologies (internet, social networking sites, applications, encrypted Blackberry Messengers) facilitate both aesthetic and political revolution by looking at Arab Spring, UK riots, and Occupy Wall Street movement.

Paper long abstract:

This paper argues that the cutting edge technologies (internet, social networking sites, applications, encrypted Blackberry Messengers) facilitate both aesthetic and political revolution by looking at Arab Spring, UK riots, and Occupy Wall Street movement. This paper also engages with the return of the populist art like postering, body art, street theater, semi-naked performances, etc.The proliferation of Guy Fawkes masks worn by the protesters, inspired from the movie 'V for Vendetta', in occupy movements across the world attest this return of populist art. Leil Zahra Mortada's Facebook Album titled 'Women of Egypt', a compilation of images from various sources on the women protesters of Egypt, could be the most powerful virtual exhibition of gendered experiences from Arab Spring. Alia Allana's photos and guest posts for 'Kafila' are dispatches from Egypt, Syria, etc. articulating the ground realities of Arab Spring. Wikileaks and its publication of 'Cablegate' and many other secret documents have stirred these protests. Thus virtual world is creating a republic of ideas and also the cultural fields provided by it facilitate both aesthetic and cultural revolutions. Nevertheless these protests have faced brutal crackdown, in real life and virtual world, from various democratic and totalitarian regimes. These developments raise apprehension about the assumption of virtual world as a space bereft of surveillance and censorship.This paper looks at these larger political uprisings and argues that these modes of protest need not necessarily be located in the political context alone but it also has to be seen in its aesthetic context. Thus it rethinks the relation between art and politics.

Panel P04
Beyond the Arab Spring: the aesthetics and poetics of popular revolt and protest