This panel aims at studying how works of art are defined in Middle Eastern museums and how this definition encompasses their political project. We would like to study how museums are perceived, socially and politically, including on a commercial level, by local and international audiences.
This panel aims at presenting papers contributing to the development of a social and political history of Museums (whether they are linked or not to monuments and archeological sites) in the Middle East. The papers will analyze how works of art are selected, classified, and the way they are exposed, by defining the actors of this process (curators, researchers, artists, tourism professionals, public officials…) on a local, national, and international scale. They will account for the impact these choices have on the very definition of these objects, the social representations and identitary constructions that sustain this process (Anderson 2006, Hobsbawm and Ranger 2012), and how works of art contribute to the affirmation of a discourse about the past, serve to create or preserve a tradition, or to the definition of a political project (Richard 2016, Kazerouni 2017). To do so, papers will address the question of target audiences and compare it with the actual visitors of these museums, together with these visitors' perception of the institution (Jelidi 2013). They will pay particular attention to the production of objects for sale inspired by the museums, aimed at a local, diasporic, or foreign audience, and to the impact that the gathering and exposition of museum collections have had on the artistic and craft production. Through the confrontation of different cases, our aim is to distinguish different models of museums and to discuss the hypothesis of their inspiration by imperial references (Ottoman, French, and British) (Poulot 1997), creating local museum traditions.