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Peasant, Revolutionary, Celebrity

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The Subversion of Popular Iconography in Contemporary Palestinian Art

image of Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication

In the last decade, the international profile of Palestinian art has grown at an unprecedented rate. In the context of international exhibitions, the work of contemporary Palestinian artists is consistently framed as inherently political and is almost always discussed in terms of the conflict with Israel. This article examines the ways that a new generation of Palestinian artists have used their work to problematize the iconography of Palestinian nationalism developed by previous generations and the international framing of their work as inherently political. It considers the role of art in the development and dissemination of Palestinian nationalist iconography and maps the history of popular iconography to show the Nakba, the battle of Karameh and the Oslo Accords as events that each transformed Palestinian popular iconography. Examining the work of artists Khaled Hourani, Emily Jacir, Larissa Sansour and Monther Jawabreh, in this article I argue that contemporary art plays a significant role in subverting the trend of reducing the Palestinian experience to one of victimhood and loss.

Affiliations: 1: National Institute for Experimental Arts, UNSW Australia


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