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  • Foto: Friederike Pannewick

Figures of Thought | Turning Points

Since the beginning of the Arab Spring, new forms of art, literature, and music, generally linked to what are considered to be major social transformations, have captured the attention of both academic circles and the mainstream media. Contemporary Arab cultural production is being viewed through the prism of the Arab uprisings, and being variously – and familiarly – cast as the harbinger or the catalyst of social change, or a set of reactions to such change. As a result, the question of how art relates to society and politics has acquired a new urgency within the field of Arabic literature and culture.

Many accounts operate with a dualistic conception as to the relationship between art and society/politics: either art is seen as a mirror, reflecting society, or it is understood as a medium of political expression; either it is the social structure that shapes and fashions the literary work, or it is the work of art that impacts on a social context. One way out of this dualistic understanding of the relationship between art and society in the Arab world is to read literature, music, and art as cultural practices.