Matar’s essay addresses the PLO’s cultural activism, in other words, its investment in diverse spheres of popular culture, at the beginning of the revolutionary period 1968–82. Drawing on archival research of the main spheres of the PLO’s cultural output, it traces how the PLO strategized popular culture to enhance its image, create a new visibility for Palestinians, and mediate a Palestinian-centric liberation aesthetic rooted in real experiences of, and participation in, the Palestinian revolution. The PLO’s cultural activism combined an agential understanding of what it means to be Palestinian with popular armed struggle, language, and images to conjure power in grassroots action, turn attention to the Palestinians themselves, and evoke enduring affective identifications with the organization despite various setbacks and the passage of time. The essay does not romanticize the role of the PLO or popular culture in a golden age of liberation politics. Rather, it underlines the role of mediated aesthetics in political struggles, addressing it not as an epiphenomenal or causal sequence, but as a key component of revolutionary processes.
PLO Cultural Activism: Mediating Liberation Aesthetics in Revolutionary Contexts
Dina Matar is head of the Centre for Global Media and Communication and senior lecturer in political communication and Arab media at SOAS, University of London. She works on the relationship between communication, politics, and culture with a special focus on the Arab World, particularly Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria. She also worked as a foreign correspondent and editor covering the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. She is the author of What It Means to Be Palestinian: Stories of Palestinian Peoplehood (I. B. Tauris, 2011); coeditor of Narrating Conflict in the Middle East: Discourse, Image and Communication Practices in Lebanon and Palestine (I. B. Tauris, 2012); coeditor of Gaza as Metaphor (C. Hurst, 2016); and coauthor of The Hizbullah Phenomenon: Politics and Communication (Oxford University Press, 2014).
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Dina Matar; PLO Cultural Activism: Mediating Liberation Aesthetics in Revolutionary Contexts. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 1 August 2018; 38 (2): 354–364. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/1089201x-6982123
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