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HomeVisual arts in Islam lands: new approaches, new issues

Visual arts in Islam lands: new approaches, new issues

Arts visuels en terres d'islam : nouvelles approches, nouveaux enjeux

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Published on Thursday, July 02, 2015


Ce dossier thématique a pour objectif de dresser une cartographie de la recherche portant sur les arts plastiques modernes et contemporains dans les pays où l’islam est la principale référence religieuse. À la différence du cinéma, du théâtre ou de la littérature, les arts visuels contemporains ont peu bénéficié de l’attention des chercheurs, et ce malgré un renouveau d’intérêt alimenté par l’actualité socio-politique des « révolutions arabes ». Nous proposons d’étudier les différents ensembles disciplinaires à partir desquels se développent les recherches sur l’art contemporain en examinant les méthodes et les outils d’analyse qui ont été utilisés depuis l’émergence de l’art moderne au Maghreb et au Moyen-Orient.



This thematic dossier proposes to map contemporary research on modern and contemporary visual arts in countries where Islam is the main religious reference. Unlike the cinema, theatre or literature, contemporary visual arts have received little attention from researchers, despite a renewed interest fuelled by the socio-political events of the "Arab revolutions". We propose to study the different disciplinary sets from which contemporary art has developed, examining the methods and analytical tools that have been used since the emergence of modern art in the Middle East and Maghreb. Our purpose will be to determine the place of this work within the established disciplines of art history, sociology of art, history and cultural anthropology. We will also investigate the uses of assignment systems that provide the framework for understanding these productions (Arab, Muslim, Mediterranean, southern, peripheral ...), systems which equally impact the objects and people moving within markets and institutions dedicated to modern and contemporary art.

Historiography of modern and contemporary art

A first axis, historiographical analysis, is intended to reflect the evolution of academic production on these objects. Indeed, despite the seminal work of Silvia Naef who proposed a socio-historical analysis of artistic modernity in the Middle East, culturalist perspectives have dominated the debate by giving tradition a central explanatory function, whether religious (with the notion of Islamic art) or not, and therefore threatened to obscure other factors that would help understand the artistic production and the creative phenomenon. Furthermore, the discourses produced within the worlds of art tend to isolate contemporary production from all past references. However, it seems that we can gain better understanding by re-registering it in a time perspective. We therefore propose to analyze the academic work and the discourse of the worlds of art since the modern period, with attention to the context of their issue, to traffic and transfers, translation effects, appropriation and re-appropriation. Contributions may participate in a sociological approach or a history of knowledge concerned with re-examining historiography and present analysis methodologies which may contribute to a renewal of perspectives.

Assignment processes and their uses

This dossier must also make it possible to question the impact of assignment processes on the works, locally, nationally or transnationally. One could, for instance, investigate the semantic shifts of the term ‘Islamic Art’ to modern / contemporary Arab / Iranian / Turkish art. These ethnic or national characterizations are often called upon to develop a process of secularization of artistic production that does not necessarily abolish the previous assignment. We will therefore explore the articulation of the different categorizations, their combined development in the field of art and their effects in the perception and understanding of the works. Conversely, it would be interesting to measure the contribution of visual arts to the construction both learned and imaginary of a "Muslim space". Studies may be based on the analysis of texts accompanying visual productions (work titles, writings on art); the materiality of visual productions; or the transfer of works, whether through market logistics (galleries, auction companies ...) or institutional channels (diplomatic exchanges, museums, annual or biennial traveling exhibitions...).

Social organizations of the worlds of art and artistic practices

The blind spot of the assignment process is frequently the context of production of the works. We therefore propose to devote part of the dossier to the social organization of the local art worlds and practices of their stakeholders. These worlds follow a logic that cannot be reduced to their political, religious or cultural frameworks, no more than to the sole dynamics of the international art scene. Whether they accept, refuse or defy assignment systems, artists participate in a general process of globalization that Islam cannot escape from and of which artists produce interpretations. Their responses are not only, or necessarily, included in their works, but also in the activities they develop and in practices that become normalized within an art world that they helped create. We therefore call for studies of the local art scenes open to dialogue with works on other geographical and cultural areas, to avoid restricting the works and their creators to a priori definitions.

Contributions that take on a comparative approach or propose new scales of observation are therefore welcome. Texts should grant particular attention to the presentation of empirical data and methods that helped bring them together. Indeed, the purpose of this issue is to help introduce original methodologies developed in fields that remain poorly known. Contributions may be based on different disciplinary traditions. But approaches questioning the effects of interdisciplinarity in the construction of a new field of thought will be particularly welcome. Quality permitting, contributions could constitute a specific methodological axis.

Submission guidelines

In summary, we would welcome articles on the region’s contemporary art according to historical, aesthetic, sociological, anthropological, political scientist or multidisciplinary scientific perspectives; they may focus on the objects themselves or on institutions dedicated to contemporary art, on the development of research on these issues or explore contemporary practices in the light of modernity.

Proposed papers (4000 characters at the most) should be emailed to annabelle.boissier@gmail.com and to alain.messaoudi@ehess.fr

before 1 december 2015.

Selected papers of 45 000 characters (maximum) should be received before 1 September 2016.


  • Annabelle Boissier,
  • Fanny Gillet,
  • Alain Messaoudi 
  • Perin Emel Yavuz


  • Tuesday, December 01, 2015


  • art visuel, islam, art moderne, art contemporain, pratique artistique, arabe

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Annabelle Boissier
    courriel : annabelle [dot] boissier [at] gmail [dot] com


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Visual arts in Islam lands: new approaches, new issues », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, July 02, 2015, https://doi.org/10.58079/szi

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