“Moving” Images: Relocating Visual Analysis in the Modern Middle East | AMCA | Association for Modern + Contemporary Art of the Arab World, Iran + Turkey
“Moving” Images: Relocating Visual Analysis in the Modern Middle East
James Ryan, “Moving” Images: Relocating Visual Analysis in the Modern Middle East, on Christiane Gruber, Sune Haugbolle, eds.Visual Culture in the Modern Middle East: Rhetoric of the Image. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2014. Illustrations. xxvii + 343 pp. $80.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-253-00884-8; $28.00 (paper), ISBN 978-0-253-00888-6.
Christiane Gruber and Sune Haugbolle’s recent edited volume Visual Culture in the Modern Middle East pulls off an impressive trick of dual timeliness. First, the primary theme of the volume emphasizes reflections on a growing interdisciplinary subfield—sensory studies—that has enjoyed a fair amount of attention in certain disciplines like anthropology for some time, but is now making its case for greater attention in fields such as history, media studies, and art history. Second, because it treats as its subject the modern Middle East, the volume broadly contextualizes recent conflicts over image making in the region—conflicts that are seemingly, and tragically, evergreen given the globalized discussion of attacks on the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo in February 2015. What readers will certainly take away from reading this volume in and after 2015 is a wider understanding of the great variety of images that are fought over, consumed, and relayed in the Middle East, including those of the prophet Muhammad but also more current figures like martyrs of the Iran-Iraq war or clerical leaders like Muqtada al-Sadr. The volume goes a long way to accomplishing what the editors set out to do in their introduction, which is to account for the place of the visual in a culture that has historically been classified as primarily auditory while also privileging, rightly or wrongly, religious culture above all else.