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Occupation Heritage: Memory Sites in the Middle East


Dr. Ihab Saloul

Members of the research group

dr. C. de Cesari
dr. N. Roei
dr. I.A.M. Saloul
External Members:
A.H. Sa'di Ben Gurion University)
C. Harders (FU Berlin)
F. Tufeili (Translator)
G. Amit (Levenski College of Education, Tel-Aviv)
G. Stemmrich (FU Berlin)
H. Dayan (UvA/AUC)
I. Soos (PhD candidate, FU Berlin)
J. Pearl (Academic College of Communication, Rishon LeZion)
N. Muller (Curator)
R. Zreik (Haifa University)
S. Harten (PhD candidate, FU Berlin)
S. Yousef (Artist)
Y. Bartana (Artist)

Description of the research programme of the research group

The modern Middle East has a rich yet violent history of occupation. Although major military struggles and political shifts have been largely studied by scholars in various fields, the impact of occupation on remembrance and heritage (un-)making, including concurrent changes in cultural production and consumption of memory, have been given far less attention.
Both the aftermath and the potential of the so-called “Arab Spring” have challenged traditional paradigms for understanding the relationship between culture and politics, and have opened up new sets of questions in both spheres. “Revolution”, as both concept and practice, has at once enabled innovative modes of critique, imaginings of new utopias, re-signified subjectivities, as well as communal solidarities, civil society and local politics. This interdisciplinary research group focuses on space and the politics of identity in the Middle East. The group has a wide framework that conjoins notions of landscape and actual issues and events. In the context of the recent spatial, transnational and material turns in the humanities, we attempt to cross disciplinary and national boundaries between different research communities in Europe and the Middle East working in memory studies, literature, art history,
heritage studies, Holocaust studies, cultural studies, and political science.
The aim is to gain a deeper understanding of the interactions and tensions between the politics and aesthetics of occupation, memory and heritage. Against the theological history of progress, the research is directed towards the analysis of cultural forms no longer as sites of sealed history that has been permanently determined, but above all as vulnerable, fragile entities of an ongoing present working its way through its convoluted past; entities that turn history into a dense juncture of multiple past and future cultural and political compositions, revealing the way opened between actuality and potentiality, remembering and forgetfulness, speech and silence, image and the impossibility of representation, history and imagination. Primary research questions include:

  • In what ways do occupation and memory sites reveal the multiple paths of knowledge production both inside and outside the region?
  • And how do processes of political change and cultural transformations enable us to rethink the haunted European past of Colonialism and Enlightenment that to a large extent shaped the political history of the Middle East and its cultural complexities?

Envisaged results

2-3 PhD dissertations, Journal articles & book chapters, 1 edited volume, workshops & expert meetings, seminars and public lectures, as well as NWO/ERC grant proposal.

Work plan and time schedule

2014 - 2018

Societal relevance

The subject is both scientifically and politically urgent and will have audience in different academic fields across the humanities and social sciences, especially with regard to questions such as: How are intellectuals, artists, institutional actors and the broader public beginning to rethink the idea of culture as a public good in light of the complex tensions between the effects of global economy and the marketplace on the one hand, and established practices of ‘managed’ national culture on the other? How are we to define public culture in this context? And how can we begin to map out a revolutionary genealogy of cultural practice relevant to both the changing political landscapes of the 21st century as well as the ways in which cultural forms inflect political imaginaries.