Nadia von Maltzahn
Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East (2018) 38 (2): 330-343.
This article looks at the relationship of Lebanese artists and cultural players to state institutions, in particular the ministry of culture. Why do cultural players in Lebanon call for the state’s involvement in cultural production, while in most countries of the region they wish for less involvement? What is it that artists and cultural players who are not content with the status quo ask for? This article argues that artists and intellectuals look for state support of culture as long as it does not intervene in their artistic freedom, showing that this search is connected to the idea of citizenship and rights to culture. By looking at the debates around the establishment of a ministry of culture in the early 1970s and 1990s, this article sheds light on the formulation of cultural policies in Lebanon.
You can find the article here.
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Zaitunay Bay, Private Property
By Nadia von Maltzahn, Research Associate at the Orient-Institut Beirut and member of the Working Group on Cultural Policies in Lebanon
In Lebanon, the perception that there are no cultural policies is widespread. People’s first thought goes to the Ministry of Culture and its perceived lack of action in the field of culture. However, cultural policies do not only pertain to the work of ministries of culture, but rather are determined by a variety of actors and actions.
In this new article, entitled “What Cultural Policies?”, I apply the concept of explicit and implicit cultural policy to the case of Lebanon, and extend the terms so that the former does not only include cultural policies designated as such by the state, but also those created by civil society and other non-state actors, and that the latter does not only include political strategies, but also encompasses practices that in the end determine cultural policies. By looking at different ways to talk about cultural policies in Lebanon, I aim to show some of the power struggles between multiple actors involved in culture. Cultural frameworks are negotiated by a multitude of actors on the basis of both explicit and implicit policies, but also unwritten laws and practices. Continue reading
IETM will hold its Satellite Meeting Beirut between 6 and 9 October 2016, focusing on Freedom of Expression. In the words of IETM:
The Satellite’s programme will thrash out such crucial topics as mobility, cultural policies, funding, gender equality in the cultural sector, decentralization of culture and more.
Multifaceted discussions, roundtables, encounters, visits and performances will reveal Beirut as a place where, similarly to the rest of the Arab region, artists and cultural operators are reclaiming public space, defying mobility restrictions and persistently making art as a form of resistance.
The programme is backed by an International Campaign for Freedom of Expression, launched by IETM, with the aim of endorsing on-going reforms of censorship laws in Lebanon and similar campaigns in the South-Mediterranean region.
Political and ideological realities weight heavily on the cultural sector everywhere today. To resort to our strongest remedy – solidarity, we invite you to Beirut to revolve around the challenges and values of working together.
The full programme for the meeting can be found here.
In the run up to the meeting, cultural activist and journalist Mona Merhi has written a short overview of the history of censorship in Lebanon, which can be accessed here (in both English and Arabic).
To improve existing policies and create awareness about cultural policies, a project was launched in 2009 to research the state of cultural policies in a number of Arab countries. Following an open call, the regional NGO Culture Resource (al Mawred al Thaqafy) in close cooperation with the European Cultural Foundation selected researchers from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria to research their national cultural policies along the following axes: historical background, organisation and infrastructure of all institutions involved, objectives and principles, state of the debate on cultural policies, legal frameworks, financial frameworks, the role of civil society and partnerships, and supporting creativity. A summary of the results was subsequently published in both Arabic (download here) and English, and a regional conference on cultural policies in the Arab World held in Beirut in June 2010.
One recommendation of this conference was to set up an Arab group for cultural policies, consisting of representatives of participating countries who in turn would set up national groups for cultural policies in their countries, to advance research and the debate on cultural policies. A second meeting was held in Amman in April 2011, at which the notion was reinforced that cultural work in the region suffered from similar problems, including lack of cooperation between state institutions and the independent sector, a legislation that gave little room to artists and intellectuals, as well as financial restrictions. The change the region was going through was seen as providing an opportunity to examine the organisation and development of cultural work based on a well-grounded understanding of the present situation and a long-term vision, and to make recommendations for new or reformed infrastructures.
The initial research on cultural policies in Lebanon in 2009 was undertaken by Watfa Hamadi and Rita Azar, and is available on al Mawred al Thaqafy’s website (in Arabic, download here). It was updated in 2014 by Mona Merhi (download here).