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Yale University lecturer Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi discusses the political undertones of iconic artworks of the 20th century in the Arab world.

From the Baathist regimes of Syria and Iraq to Egypt’s pan-Arabism under Gamal Abdel Nasser, art has been employed by various governments as a tool of soft power to propagate their policies to the public not only in their respective states but throughout the region and beyond. Despite this government patronage, many artists have chosen to challenge their authorities through their practices. This talk sheds light on an often neglected dimension in the modern history of the Arab world.

Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi is a United Arab Emirates-based columnist and researcher on social, political and cultural affairs in the Arab Gulf States. Sultan rose in prominence during the Arab Spring when his tweets became a major news source, rivaling news networks at the time, until TIME magazine listed him in the “140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011.” In 2018 Sultan ranked 19th on the “Arabic Thought Leader Index” by Swiss think tank Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute. Sultan was an MIT Media Lab Director’s Fellow from 2014-2016, and in the spring of 2017 he was a practitioner in residence at the Hagop Kevorkian Center of Near East Studies at New York University, where he offered a special course on Politics of Middle Eastern Art. Sultan is currently conducting research for a book that documents the modern architecture of the city of Sharjah in the UAE. In 2010 Sultan established the Barjeel Art Foundation that aims to contribute to the intellectual development of the art scene in the Arab region by building an extensive and publicly accessible art collection. In 2018, 100 works from the collection were hosted on a long-term basis at the Sharjah Art Museum.

Sponsored by the Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Program, Colgate Arts Council, Art and Art History Department, Film and Media Studies Program, and Museum Studies.

 

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