CFP: [Postcolonial] Collecting Practices in the Middle East (essay collection)

full name / name of organization: 
john pedro schwartz
contact email: 

Collecting Practices in the Middle East: Alternative Visions of the Past

This collection of essays focuses on collecting practicesâ€"material, urban,
or textualâ€"in the Middle East. Collection studies, together with the
overlapping field of museum studies, constitutes a growing field of
inquiry. As Donald Preziosi and Claire Farago point out in Grasping the
World: the Idea of the Museum (Ashgate, 2004), more has been written about
the museum in the last decade than ever before. However, this does not
apply to the Middle East for a variety of reasons. First, there is a dearth
of museums owing primarily to political factors, as wars and authoritarian
structures have hindered the foundation of museums, at times even destroyed
existing collections. The oldest museums in Istanbul, Cairo and Beirut came
into existence through colonial practices during the nahda, the so-called
Arab awakening in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Since then,
they have acquired characteristics of their own. The recent museum boom in
the Gulf States may eventually change the picture. As interest in the
region’s popular and visual culture increases, research on museums and
other collections is bound to expand. The collection’s aims are to bring
together some of this research and to trigger further interest in the
field. It is also a platform to think critically about theoretical and
methodological questions. Like art history, collection studies does not
constitute a neutral, value-free discourse that can be transported
unreflectively from Western into non-Western contexts.

In addition, the collection is concerned with investigating alternative
visions of the past. Collecting practices tell us a lot not only about the
past but also about the ways we approach the past and thus about present
conceptions and representations of ourselves and our identity. The
collection is organized into sections devoted to material, textual and
urban collections. Collection and museum studies should be seen in close
intersection, but their differences should also be borne in mind. Not all
collections are housed in a museum, nor need they take on the mission of
educating or entertaining the public, nor are they all concerned with
material artifacts. Collections can be textual as well, as in the stories,
memories or events selected, recalled and retold in the pages of a text.
Collections can also be urban, as in the architectural restoration projects
undertaken by a growing number of municipalities across the globe concerned
with heritage, itself an object variously interpreted and vigorously
collected. What links these different collections together is the figure of
the frame. Collecting practices are framing practices: decisions are made
by powerful interests about what to include and what to leave out, about
how to exhibit, narrate and interpret the past.

The editors are especially looking for contributions that concentrate on
collecting practicesâ€"material, urban, or textualâ€"in the Gulf States.
Please send a 500-word abstract and CV to John Pedro Schwartz by December 10, 2008.

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Received on Tue Nov 18 2008 - 04:03:26 EST