Accepted Paper:

Solidifying national identity through visual and material culture in post-blockade Qatar  
Serena Iervolino (King's College London)

Paper short abstract:

The 5th of June 2017 is a significant date in Qatar's recent history; it marks the start of an unprecedented blockade imposed on the state by a Saudi-led coalition. The paper explores the role played by iconic images and sensational, material manifestations of nationalism in a Qatar under siege.

Paper long abstract:

Talking to the American programme "60 Minutes", H.E. Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of Qatar, stated (October 2017): "Qatar after the 5th of June is not like Qatar before. We're proud of what we were. We're proud of our history. But after the 5th of June, it's different. We are stronger." After 05/06/17 Qatar did not look like Qatar just before. It resembled its eccentric outlook during the annual Qatar National Day celebrations, when public and private buildings, vehicles, and other paraphernalia are saturated with "state symbols, slogans, icons, and colors" (Kock, 2016: 43).

In post-blockade Qatar, these symbols resurfaced. The blatant manifestations of nationalism and loyalty to Qatar's leaders, however, came to centre around an artwork and its slogan "Tamim al-majd" ("Tamim the Glourious") created by a young Qatari artist. This image trended on social media and soon turned into a national emblem, being plastered on virtually every car and building, as well as on large murals installed across Doha. Here Qataris and residents were able, and tacitly invited, to express their support to the country's leadership. Exhibitions of murals and artworks inspired by the siege were organised across Doha, whilst graffiti were commissioned by Qatar Museums. Some "Tamim al-majd" murals were allegedly acquired by museums.

By examining these initiatives, the paper shades light on how, in Gulf states, political events and particular actors may give impetus to the formation of material apparatuses intended to solidify national identity, foster nationalism and mitigate anxieties.

Panel P035
Art, Culture and Materiality in the Arabian Peninsula