File spoon-archives/postcolonial.archive/postcolonial_2004/postcolonial.0401, message 30

Subject: invitation -- please circulate
Date: Thu, 22 Jan 2004 00:11:52 -0500




We would like to invite you to participate in an online forum, sponsored by the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam.  The forum is about the organization and representation of contemporary armed conflict.  It aims to facilitate dialogue between critical thinkers who are writing from both Western and Islamic perspectives.  


Since this is an online forum (conducted by mailinglist), your participation would be entirely by email. The advantage to this form of participation, as you probably know, is that you can participate at your own pace, as your time permits. 


The discussion is organized by Jordan Crandall with Asef Bayat, Susan Buck-Morss, Hamid Dabashi, Brian Holmes, and Gema Martin Munoz.  (Biographies are included below).  We expect participation from artists, journalists, and critical thinkers from both the West and the Middle East.   These online conversations will be moderated, so you can be assured of quality discussion. The discussions will begin on January 25.


Edited compilations of these discussions will be included in a series of books to be published during the course of the year. 


We hope that you will be able to join us.  To subscribe to the mailinglist, all you have to do is send an email to with the following word in the SUBJECT line:  






Under Fire is a year-long project that explores the organization and representation of contemporary armed conflict.  On the organizational front, it looks at the forms of militarized agencies that are emerging today, including Western defense industries and decentralized terrorist organizations.  It explores the forces that contribute to their emergence, whether operating at the level of economy, technology, politics, or ideology.  On the representational front, it looks at the ways that armed violence materializes as act and image, searching for new insight into its mechanisms and effects.  In so doing, it engages issues of economy, embodiment, symbolic meaning, and affect.  


The project delves into the economic underpinnings of contemporary armed conflict.  It looks at the legacy of the "military-industrial complex," the rise of the privatized military industry, and the repercussions of the commercialization of violence.  However it does not simply prioritize economy.  It looks to contemporary conflicts as driven by combinations of territorial, market, and ideological imperatives, and new attempts at the reconciliation of identity and universality.  It looks to emergent processes of organization that operate on multiple levels of temporality and implicit form.  Through this approach, the project aims to articulate emergent systems of decentralized control and new global dynamics of power.  Building on historical conceptions of hegemony, it attempts to understand the nature of emergent power and the forms of resistance to it, situating cycles of violence within the modalities of a global system. 


The project emphasizes the role that representations play as registers of symbolic meaning and as agents of affective change.  It engages images from commercial and independent news media, as well as representations from artistic, literary, and popular entertainment sources, both in the West and the Middle East. These images are regarded in terms of attention strategy and perception management, but they are also regarded in terms of cultural imaginaries of conflict, where they can operate as "fictionalized components of reality."  They are studied in terms of the deeper truths they may offer about collective identifications and aggressions, and their roles in the formation of a new body politic.    


The project consists of as a series of organized discussions that will occur online and in Rotterdam, throughout the year 2004.  These discussions will involve participation from individuals working in politics, theory, criticism, the arts, and journalism from both the West and the Middle East.  Rather than relying on discourses based upon Western conceptions of modernity, the project is dedicated to opening up new historical perspectives, exploring the potential of Islamist discourse as a source of critical and political debate.  It will thus include participation from progressive thinkers in the Islamic world.  While most of these discussions will be conducted in English, sections will be translated into Arabic.  


A series of publications will be released during the course of the year.  Each of these publications will be organized around a key interpretive concept that emerges in the proceedings.    


Through this approach, Under Fire aims to help open up a discursive terrain that can offer new insights into symptomatic violence, and  alternatives to its perpetuation.


For more information contact Witte de With at  Witte de With, center for contemporary art, Witte de Withstraat 50,  3012 BR, Rotterdam



Asef Bayat is the Academic Director of the International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World (ISIM) and the ISIM Chair at the University of Leiden.  He has taught sociology and Middle East studies at the American University in Cairo an has held visiting positions at the University of California, Berkeley, Columbia University and the University of Oxford. He is currently program director of an ISIM research program on socio-religious movements and social change in contemporary Muslim societies.


Susan Buck-Morss is Professor of Political Philosophy and Social Theory in the Department of Government at Cornell University, where she is also Professor of Visual Culture in the Department of Art History. Her books include The Origin of Negative Dialectics: Theodor W. Adorno, Walter Benjamin and the Frankfurt Institute (1979); The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project (1991); Dreamworld and Catastrophe: the Passing of Mass Utopia in East and West (2002); and Thinking Past Terror: Islam and Critical Theory on the Left (2003). 


Jordan Crandall is a visual artist and media theorist.  He is Assistant Professor in the Visual Arts Department at University of California, San Diego.  He is the author of Drive: Technology, Mobility, and Desire (2002); co-editor of Interaction: Artistic Practice in the Network (1999); and founding editor of a forthcoming journal of philosophy, art, cultural studies, and science studies.  


Brian Holmes and is an art critic, cultural theorist, and activist, particularly involved with the mapping of contemporary capitalism.  He is a member of the French activist association Ne pas plier (Do not bend).  He has recently published an anthology of his critical writing called Hieroglyphs of the Future (2003).


Hamid Dabashi is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and the director of Graduate Studies at the Center for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University. His research interests include the comparative study of cultures, Islamic intellectual history, and the social and intellectual history of Iran, both modern and medieval. His publications include Authority in Islam: From the Rise of Muhammad to the Establishment of the Umayyads (1989), Theology of Discontent: The Ideological Foundation of the Islamic Revolution in Iran (1993), Truth and Narrative: The Untimely Thoughts of Ayn Al-Qudat Al-Hamadhani (1999), Staging a Revolution: The Art of Persuasion in the Islamic Republic of Iran (with Peter Chelkowski, 1999), and Close Up: Iranian Cinema, Past, Present, Future (2001). 


Gema Martin Munoz is Professor of Sociology of the Arab and Islamic world at Madrid Autonoma University.  Her research interests include the sociopolitical situations in Middle East countries; Islamist movements and Muslims in Europe.  She is editor of Islam, Modernism and the West: Cultural and Political Relations at the End of the Millennium (1999) and author of Arab State. Crisis of legitimacy and islamist reactions (2000) and Iraq, a failure of the West (2003).


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