Visual Culture in the Modern Middle East: Rhetoric of the Image

Visual Culture in the Modern Middle East: Rhetoric of the Image

Visual Culture in the Modern Middle East: Rhetoric of the Image

Visual Culture in the Modern Middle East: Rhetoric of the Image


This timely book examines the power and role of the image in modern Middle Eastern societies. The essays explore the role and function of image making to highlight the ways in which the images "speak" and what visual languages mean for the construction of Islamic subjectivities, the distribution of power, and the formation of identity and belonging. Visual Culture in the Modern Middle East addresses aspects of the visual in the Islamic world, including the presentation of Islam on television; on the internet and other digital media; in banners, posters, murals, and graffiti; and in the satirical press, cartoons, and children's books.


Christiane Gruber and Sune Haugbolle

Expanding the Borders of Visual Culture

From television and computer screens to billboards and magazines, images speak to modern human beings, shaping our social imaginaries and our visual cultures. the term “visual culture” describes the mechanisms that produce and recycle visual material in various public cultures. Moreover, since the late 1980s it has come to designate a new interdisciplinary field of study, departing from the traditional methods of art historical inquiry to incorporate theoretical insights from literature, anthropology, sociology, cultural theory, gender studies, film, and media studies in order to examine a wider range of visual materials. Largely a disciplinary offshoot of cultural studies, which gained prominence in England from the 1950s onward, the more narrowly defined field of visual culture has not been without its problems and critics. Debates continue to unfold, calling into question, for instance, whether visual culture is indeed an academic discipline with specific methodologies and objects of study, or, conversely, an interdisciplinary movement whose course may be more short-lived than expected.

Through the proliferation of visual culture readers, anthologies, studies, and journals, the very least that one can say is that a large scholarly apparatus has emerged, suggesting strongly that visual culture is a field that over the last three decades has engendered rich and textured discussions on the manifold roles of images in the public domain of everyday life. Anchored within such discourses, this volume takes the position that visual culture indeed functions as a productive field of inquiry and is most useful as an interface between the many disciplines that treat visuality— predominantly, though not exclusively, in modern and contemporary cultures.

At the center of this multidisciplinary field of research—propagated largely, to date, by scholars of Euro-American popular materials—are questions about image production and reception, as well as the culturally contingent practices of looking. Without a doubt, the field’s scholarship has . . .

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