AFAC attended “Mapping Cultural Policy in the Arab Region” on 21 April 2017 - the 12th international conference organised by the Arab Media Centre and the Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI) at the University of Westminster in London.
The aim of the conference was to discuss the role of ‘culture’ and ‘cultural policy’ in the Arab region within a context that takes into account the recent historical and political events that are reshaping the region’s societies, economies and culture industries. Panelists spanned scholars, policymakers, artists and civil society group members that made critical presentations on particular aspects of cultural policy in the Arab region. Welcome messages were made by Christian Fuchs, Director of the Communication and Media Research Centre, and Tarik Sabry, Director of Arab Media Centre, both of the University of Westminster.
In her keynote speech, Professor Naomi Sakr, gave an overview of the context, “Looking ahead to a post-oil future, Gulf states have for more than a decade been systematically investing in 'culture' or what is known as the ‘creative’ economy. In Arab countries that saw regime change since the uprisings of 2010, cultural policy constitutes an indispensable tool of struggle for both revolutionary and anti-revolutionary forces. And while the politics of difference and representation have resurfaced as a key and contentious issue in several Arab countries, Arab youth and subcultures, alienated by state-owned cultural institutions and the private culture industry sectors, have sought DIY strategies and independent sources of funding to give voice to new and alternative artistic forms of expression, including performative arts, experimental film and music.”
The conference raised a number of questions: What lessons can be learnt from the history of cultural policy in the Arab region? How does focus on ‘Arab policy’ reinforce the marginalisation of non-Arab cultures in the region? What roles do the Arab states play in the promotion of the Arts and to what end? Have the Arab uprisings triggered a necessary or urgent interest in cultural policy? What do we know about the politics of cultural policy making in the Arab region? How do we assess the global/Western funding of Arab arts and cultures? And finally, how do we evaluate and critique the Arab cultural policy reports emerging from the UN Convention on Cultural Diversity?