Professor El Nossery is thrilled to announce that her new book, Arab Women’s Revolutionary Art, is published and available for order from Palgrave Macmillan.
Here is Faculty Director Steven Brooke’s interview with her:
What spurred you to write this book?
Since the beginning of the Arab uprisings in 2011, I have been constantly asked to comment on “the role of women within these revolutions”. And since I have always been interested in exploring women’s creativity in my scholarship, I started to document women’s participation through what I call in my book “revolutionary art”. It goes without saying that Arab women were always politically and artistically active prior to the uprisings. But in the book, I look at how specific events and circumstances boosted the political engagement of artists as well as their audiences, striving for meaningful change, and contributing to the discourse on the revolution through creativity as a vehicle for resistance, contestation, and change.
Can you describe your process of research? What drew you towards certain pieces of art, and particular artists?
In undertaking a comparative perspective, my book relies on a vast array of interdisciplinary approaches (literary, cultural, visual, feminist, media, and postcolonial studies). The book is divided into three parts—Visualizing the Revolution, Performing the Revolution, and Writing the Revolution—in order to better grasp the relationship between the textual and the visual, as well as the choice of media. It focuses on several specific women artists, while also documenting a large number of others. The artists include Egyptian-Lebanese graffiti artist and art historian Bahia Shehab, Tunisian photographer Héla Ammar and writer Dora Latiri, Moroccan activist and comic book artist Zainab Fasiki, and French-Algerian novelist Kaouther Adimi. Drawing on a vast array of artistic productions from several different revolutionary periods, spaces, and languages (Arabic and French in particular), the book presents a cohesive analysis of the role of women in the Arab world by exploring the ways in which their artistic production proposes alternative epistemologies and archives defiance in radical and creative ways.
What was the thing that most surprised you during the research and writing process?
While very few drastic and fruitful changes took place on the political and economic level during the uprisings and in their aftermath, prevailing art forms have proliferated since 2011, as non-conventional inventive expression were disseminated in public spaces, through publishing, and on the internet. More and more ingenious art is being propagated among youth culture and thus creating underground subcultures. While writing this book, I was amazed by the instantaneous and informal nature of social media which lent itself exceedingly well to the revolutionary environment, as it was capable of replicating the sense of immediacy inherent to many new waves of women’s artistic expression and new forms of production which have emerged and empowered women amid societal and political unrest. It is also important to remember that the first years after the Arab uprisings witnessed the emergence and flourishing of new literary and artistic expressions (auto-fictional blogs, music festivals, protest songs, slam poetry, documentaries, photographs, and street art). I truly believe that art, as an ongoing process, is capable of preserving the revolutionary soul that sparked in 2011 throughout the Arab world. Art will always be oriented towards an open future, as a conditioning factor for social resistance, and a vehicle to document what has happened and what stories will be told. And thus, the revolution continues!
How does this research help inform your teaching, and vice-versa?
My scholarship, my teaching, and foremost my identity are shaped by concepts like diversity and intersectionality. Through my research, I am interested in examining the various interstitial spaces where languages, genres and viewpoints intertwine, reflecting the (in)balance of power that can exist between societies, states and people in postcolonial settings. I bring these ideas to the classroom, a space where all differences can be discovered, excavated, and come to the forefront. For the last fifteen years at UW-Madison, I have been bringing my students into the worlds of Francophone and Arabic literatures and cultures. The material I teach takes them to unfamiliar places and shows them different ways of living and even dreaming. These experiences, both distinct from their own and yet similar, enhance their ability to bridge cultures and to go beyond trivial differences. But it also allows them to better understand and discern the world that surrounds us, and to look anew at it with fresh eyes. Reading foreign works can expand their horizons of thinking and fill the void when answers are evasive; it brings nuances to their perspectives, might alter their views, and challenge the ideas they take for granted. In the end, my Wisconsin students will become global citizens who can recognize and respect differences rather than seek sameness.
What’s the next project?
My new book, Mémoires en contrepoint. L’Algérie et ses histoires (re)construites (Contrapuntal Memories. Algeria and its (re)constructed Histories) is based on this premise: that the past embedded in any narrative is more of a ‘re-construction’ than a restitution of events as they really happened. In this study, I am interested in literary and visual works that challenge the idea of an imposed ‘authorized’ memory, from an official history learned at school and publicly celebrated. In other words, these accounts reconstruct the Algerian past according to their own interpretation, even creative imagination, and what I call an “other imaginary” of the French colonization of Algeria. Especially in the absence of reliable official archives it represents an undeniable historical source. The concept of the anarchive is pertinent to my research since it covers -without hierarchy- the official, but most importantly the unofficial (fictional) accounts, complementing each other in order to understand the past and keep history alive in the present.
If you wish to purchase the printed book or eBook at a 20% discount when ordering from the publisher’s site at: link.springer.com , please apply discount: LmEJvD59DAT7N3 . Valid Apr 27 -May 25, 2023