Posthumous Images

Contemporary Art and Memory Politics in Post–Civil War Lebanon

Posthumous Images

Art History Publication Initiative

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Book Pages: 264 Illustrations: 71 color illustrations Published: June 2018

Author: Chad Elias

Art and Visual Culture > Art History, Middle East Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Critical Theory

For almost two decades of its history (1975-90), Lebanon was besieged by sectarian fighting, foreign invasions, and complicated proxy wars. In Posthumous Images, Chad Elias analyzes a generation of contemporary artists who have sought, in different ways, to interrogate the contested memory of those years of civil strife and political upheaval. In their films, photography, architectural projects, and multimedia performances, these artists appropriate existing images to challenge divisive and violent political discourses. They also create new images that make visible individuals and communities that have been effectively silenced, rendered invisible, or denied political representation. As Elias demonstrates, these practices serve to productively unsettle the distinctions between past and present, the dead and the living, official history and popular memory. In Lebanon, the field of contemporary art is shown to be critical to remembering the past and reimagining the future in a nation haunted by a violent and unresolved war.


"Sophisticated and carefully researched . . . . The significance of [Elias's] book for current Anglophone art history is its in-depth and rewarding analysis of a context outside the usual terms of reference." — Tom Snow, Art Monthly

"Posthumous Images is a welcome contribution to the study of contemporary art from the Middle East, significant in its substantive engagements with a generation of artists in Lebanon that has been championed around the world for its theoretically sophisticated responses to a devastating conflict and its tense, inconclusive afterlives. Elias offers important provocations for further study of cultural production in Lebanon, through his identification of a tension between a ‘politics of representation’ and a ‘politics of truth’, his attention to ‘communities of witnessing’ that contest a state-imposed post-war condition of forgetting, and his analysis of the role of media technologies in circulating images of contested histories." — Kareem Estefan, Third Text

"Elias’s erudite and thoughtful writing, self-reflexively aware of the failures of translation, offers a refreshing alternative to this starved corpus. . . . Posthumous Images generates a valuable dialogue between theory and art, whereby they complicate and complement one another." — Foad Torshizi, Arab Studies Quarterly

"Posthumous Images is a rigorous work of scholarship that offers a timely intervention into existing discourses on lens-based media and memory. The book offers a clear and important route to thinking beyond the widely accepted inadequacies of the visual without recourse to conventional models of documentary truth." — Kimberly Schreiber, Object

"Posthumous Images is, in sum, a brilliant book, sparkling with ambition and insight but also a couple of squibs in judgement that may be attributed more to the confidence of an exuberant intellect at work than to any lack of sensitivity." — Ken Seigneurie, Journal of Arabic Literature

"This is a stimulating study, impressive in its writing. Because Elias builds his chapters upon a culled selection of work, there is space for him to construct his claims through elegant constellations of references to theorists rather than direct citations of historical studies. The result is a book that gives air to both its readings and possible gaps in those readings’ explanatory power." — Anneka Lenssen, Art Journal

“Chad Elias's thoughtful analysis of artistic activity under 'state-sanctioned amnesia' in the Lebanese context is eye-opening and a source of inspiration for anyone interested in the long-lasting effects of imperial violence. The Lebanese Civil War and the amnesia it continues to generate are not assumed as a background against which Lebanese art is studied, or as a source of an un-presentable trauma. Amnesia is conceived as orchestrated by the state and integral to an entire economy of violence, desires, and mistranslations. Elias ingeniously shows art to be both a product of and a medium for this economy, but also a form of resistance to it.” — Ariella Azoulay, author of Civil Imagination: A Political Ontology of Photography

“Offering a compelling overview of contemporary Lebanese art, Posthumous Images is a welcome addition to cutting-edge scholarship on the Middle East, critically addressing the relationship between media and performance, and the formation of experimental memory cultures following periods of state violence and military conflicts.” — T. J. Demos, author of Decolonizing Nature: Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Chad Elias is Assistant Professor of Art History at Dartmouth College.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Illustrations  ix
Acknowledgments  xiii
Introduction  1
1. Captive Subjects: On the Geopolitics of Sex and Translation in Walid Raad's Hostage: The Bachar Tapes  27
2. Resistance, Video Martyrdom, and the Afterlife of the Lebanese Left  55
3. Latent Images, Buried Bodies: Mourning Lebanon's Disappeared  93
4. Suspended Places: The Void and the Monument in Post-Civil War Beirut  131
5. Images of Futures Past: The Lebanese Rocket Society  159
Coda. Time Bomb  177
Notes  193
Bibliography  225
Index  239
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4766-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4710-1
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