Cover of Creative Reckonings by Jessica Winegar
Creative Reckonings
The Politics of Art and Culture in Contemporary Egypt
Jessica Winegar


416 pages.

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Paperback ISBN: 9780804754774
Ebook ISBN: 9780804768139

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Winner of the 2007 Albert Hourani Book Award, sponsored by the Middle East Studies Association.

Winner of the 2011 Arnold Rubin Outstanding Book Award, sponsored by the Arts Council of the African Studies Association.

The Egyptian art world is the oldest and largest in the Arab Middle East. Its artists must reckon with the histories of ancient Egypt, European modernism, anti-colonial nationalism, and state socialism-all in the context of a growing neoliberal economy marked by American global dominance. At this crucial intersection of culture, politics, and economy, Egypt's art and artists provide unique insight into current struggles for cultural identity and sovereignty in the Middle East.

This book examines the heated cultural politics in today's Arab world, and tells how art-making has become an unexpectedly central part of that. It offers a lively analysis of the battles between artists, curators, and audiences over cultural authenticity, cultural policy, public art in a changing urban Egypt, and the new global marketing of Egyptian art. The art world it shows powerfully exemplifies how people in the Middle East reckon with global transformations that are changing how culture is made in societies with colonial and socialist pasts.

About the author

Jessica Winegar is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Northwestern University.

"The extraordinary strengths of this book lie in its thorough ethnography, its theorizing of artistic impulse and resulting artistic work in terms of class and the political economy of the time, and its fine treatment of modernity through the lens of art. WInegar offers a wonderful critique of Enlightenment thinking in an Egyptian context, taking on individualism and other Western-derived concepts of modernity as she goes."

—Virginia Danielson, The Journal of Coparative Studies in Society and History

"Through the perspective of the social institutions where art is produced and discussed, sold and collected, this book presents an exciting and smart account of modern Egyptian culture. It will immediately become the most important work on the subject."

—Elliott Colla, Brown University

"In a very compelling and lively style, Jessica Winegar examines the world of fine art in Egypt to provide us keen insights into the turmoils and opportunities afforded by today's fastmoving neoliberal openings. Reading this book was a great delight."

—Ted Swedenburg, University of Arkansas, coeditor of Palestine, Israel, and the Politics of Popular Culture

"Through this rich account of the practice of modern art in a postcolonial setting, Jessica Winegar offers a brilliant analysis of how an art world is fashioned as an arena of cultural politics and a means of reckoning with the multiple experiences of modernity."

—Tim Mitchell, New York University

"As the only study of its kind to date, and for its sensitive view of the conditions of artistic culture in modern Egypt, Creative Reckonings is an invaluable contribution to studies of the modern Middle East, post-Arab socialist cultural history, and anthropologies of modern and contemporary art."

Arab Studies Journal