Kamran Rastegar’s Surviving Images: Cinema, War, and Cultural Memory in the Middle East treats the cinematic medium as the contested terrain of discursive battles within what he describes as the arbitrary boundary marker, that is, the Middle East. With this self-critical stance with regard to its geographical focus, perhaps dictated by the recognized academic field of area studies, Rastegar presents an encompassing postcolonial reading of cinematic production and its role in the writing of history and cultural memory through its power of representing social violence and its traumas.
Beginning his study in the late nineteenth century and extending it into the present, Rastegar traces the history of cinematic production through colonial contexts, independence struggles, and various postcolonial moments, drawing attention to the continuities as well as ruptures among these deeply intertwined histories and their subjects. Whether discussing the empire, the independent state, or the various resistances of colonizers and decolonizers, the book is as much about the power of the cinematic medium as it is about the networks of power that it is entangled in. To make this case, Rastegar tackles canonical and relatively more marginal films of various genres with particular attention to their different spheres of production and reception, local and international.