PLO Cultural Activism: Mediating Liberation Aesthetics in Revolutionary Contexts
- Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East
- Duke University Press
- Volume 38, Number 2, August 2018
- pp. 354-364
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Matar's essay addresses the PLO's cultural activism, in other words, its investment in diverse spheres of popular culture, at the beginning of the revolutionary period 1968–82. Drawing on archival research of the main spheres of the PLO's cultural output, it traces how the PLO strategized popular culture to enhance its image, create a new visibility for Palestinians, and mediate a Palestinian-centric liberation aesthetic rooted in real experiences of, and participation in, the Palestinian revolution. The PLO's cultural activism combined an agential understanding of what it means to be Palestinian with popular armed struggle, language, and images to conjure power in grassroots action, turn attention to the Palestinians themselves, and evoke enduring affective identifications with the organization despite various setbacks and the passage of time. The essay does not romanticize the role of the PLO or popular culture in a golden age of liberation politics. Rather, it underlines the role of mediated aesthetics in political struggles, addressing it not as an epiphenomenal or causal sequence, but as a key component of revolutionary processes.