Colin McLaughlin-Alcock

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

California, Irvine, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9240

Approve Date

April 8, 2016

Project Title

McLaughlin-Alcock, Colin G., U. of California, Irvine, CA - To aid research on 'Art-Space: Creative Remakings of Amman's Communal Geography,' supervised by Dr. Victoria Bernal

This ethnographic study explores the relation between aesthetic and spatial aspects of urban politics, examining how artists in Amman, Jordan, politicized by the Arab Spring, use aesthetic organization to transform Amman’s urban space, and how this affects the structure of communal boundaries both locally and transnationally. These artists engage in a highly contested local communal geography, attempting to form a more inclusive political community through art, as well as a complex international geography, attempting to build social links across political borders. During preliminary research, I found that such artwork emerged in Amman at a time when other avenues of political activity were closed off by the suppression of the Arab Spring. Artists told me that their artwork aims to overcome the obstacles of communal violence and spatial closure that they encountered as Arab Spring protesters (when nationalist mobs attacked the supposedly Palestinian protesters and this violence encouraged police to prevent further protest in public space). This study has important implications for our understanding of art, especially how art mediates multiple, contested spatial knowledges, possibly resolving social contradiction, and how art relates to the political potential of urban space, both immediately and through relationships of scale. How can art transform communal violence and spatial closure into political possibility? When artists reach across long-standing social divides to build political community, how does art mediate conflicting social histories, identities, and knowledges of space? How does attention to this politics of space demand a reanalysis of the Arab Spring and of Arab politics more generally?