Academic journal article Arab Studies Journal

On Delusion, Art, and Urban Desires in Palestine Today: An Interview with Yazid Anani

Academic journal article Arab Studies Journal

On Delusion, Art, and Urban Desires in Palestine Today: An Interview with Yazid Anani

Article excerpt

Yazid Anani is an assistant professor in the Department of Architecture and the Masters Program in Urban Planning and Landscape at Birzeit University. He obtained his PhD in spatial planning from TU Dortmund University in Germany in 2006. Anani chaired the Academic Council of the International Academy of Art Palestine in 2010-12. He has actively collaborated in several collectives and projects, including "Decolonizing Architecture" and "Ramallah Syndrome." In addition to curating or co-curating "Urban Cafés" and "Palestinian Cities-Visual Contention," he has also co-curated the second, third, and fourth editions of Cities Exhibition. His writings on cultural and visual politics, traveling theory, contemporary art practices, transnationalism, and international cultural aid have appeared in various journals and edited volumes. He was a 2012-13 Postdoctoral Fellow at the Forum for Transregional Studies of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.

Hanan Toukan was a Teaching Fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London from 2009-12, where she taught and lectured in the Department of Politics and International Studies and the Center for Media and Film Studies. She obtained her PhD from SOAS, University of London, in 2011. Toukan's research focuses on the role of international cultural funding institutions in the Middle East, global and local practices and discourses on culture and the arts, and traveling theoretical conceptions and enactments of what "the political" holds in cultural production. She was a 2012-13 Postdoctoral Fellow at the Forum for Transregional Studies of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.

Introduction

Over the course of their year together as postdoctoral fellows at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, Anani and Toukan held an ongoing dialogue about Palestinian art, the politics of its local and international production processes, and meaning making in the different spatial, temporal, and transnational contexts in which it circulates. This interview revolves around one particular project, Cities Exhibition, which Anani has been co-curating since its second edition in Ramallah in 2008.

Their conversations stem from their contention that Ramallah, the professed capital of the future Palestinian state, has become an ideal envi- ronment for the post-Oslo, new urban middle class that embodies what Sharon Zukin has called a "universal yearning for cappuccino culture."1 This evolving social structure is a core manifestation of a universal, yet specific, profit-oriented culture that instills a narrow imagination of the "good life" and serves to distance the middle class in Ramallah from its long history of surviving Israeli occupation. A new, neoliberal, urban environment has emerged that allows the urban middle class to experience what David Harvey has described as "the most fundamental of human desires."2 That is, the notion of freedom is linked to the capacity to consume. It is this link that makes neoliberalism as a way of life possible.3 It is this link, too, that has fostered a delusion of freedom in the occupied territories but most specifically Ramallah, where people live under Israeli colonialism, on the one hand, and with hallucinations of a postcolonial condition, on the other.4 The delusion lying at the heart of the prevalent "cappuccino culture" manifests in the context of an ongoing Israeli occupation and confiscation of Palestinian land. In Palestine, moreover, the middlemen of the Palestinian Authority (PA), in agreement with international peace diplomacy efforts, manage these violent colonial realities. The PA operates as a quasi-state whose ultimate mission is to facilitate conditions for profitable capital accumulation aimed at building the elusive future state.

The post-Oslo regime has adopted a model of economic practices in which "Palestinian wellbeing" is best served through liberating entre- preneurial freedoms in an institutional framework that hinges on private property rights, free trade, and free markets. …

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