Your browser is unsupported

We recommend using the latest version of IE11, Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

CFP: Leili Adibfar and Kaveh Rafie organize CAA panel “Abstraction in and around the Middle East and North Africa in the Context of Decolonization”

Abstraction in and around the Middle East and North Africa in the Context of Decolonization

Session will present: Virtually

Leili Adibfar, University of Illinois at Chicago and Kaveh Rafie, University of Illinois at Chicago

Email Address(s):,

In the introduction to the exhibition catalog Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s-1980s, Suheyla Takesh characterizes the historical period in question as “a period shaped by decolonization, the rise and fall of Arab nationalism(s), socialism, rapid industrialization, several wars and subsequent mass migrations, the oil boom, and new state formations in the Arab/Persian Gulf region” (Takesh 2020, 11). This panel proposes a consideration of the ways in which decolonization, the rise of new nation-states, and other events of this period informed and transformed abstract art in and around the Middle East and North Africa. Culminating in a series of UN resolutions in 1960, when colonialism was denounced “as a serious abuse of human rights,” the fierce process of liberation ushered in an era of artistic experimentation with abstraction as a response to the trauma of colonialism. Whether figural or non-objective, abstraction seems to become a dominating theme developed simultaneously with the construction of national identities in the newly emerged nation-states. What did artists aspire to achieve by embracing abstraction with decolonization in mind? How did the practice of abstraction in this context manifest the tension between local specificities and global entanglements, and how did the artists navigate between national identities and cosmopolitan impulses? What, if anything, did any of these navigations have to do with the universalizing aspirations of abstraction in the early twentieth century? We welcome papers that investigate the implications of abstraction in art and visual culture within the context shaped by decolonization.