Cultural heritage & art
My research focuses on two aspects: how states deploy heritage narratives for nation-building purposes, and how artists react to exclusive heritage narratives.
My main case study is the UAE, where a growing number of museums focus on heritage.
Heritage villages had been built, and heritage festivals had become an essential stage for performing and showcasing the country’s national identity. Even sports such as falconry and camel racing became trademarked as national sports. Concurrently, the UAE invested into the establishment of art infrastructure, the creation of art schools, the expansion of gallery districts, the founding of art fairs, and the opening of auction houses.
In the UAE, the increased cultural and economic investments in art and heritage did not merely occur in parallel, however. They were intrinsically connected. Art was part of heritage festivals and campaigns, and heritage was increasingly featured in contemporary visual art projects.
This was due, partly, to the fact that visual artists themselves took an interest in questioning the country’s official historical and cultural narratives. It was also the result, as I show in my thesis, of particular funding campaigns for art that strategically sought to merge the state’s agendas on heritage and art.